Adam Bird

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Sunday, 4 December 2011

Pride in My Town

Gravesend

Behind every Facebook status update lies a bigger story. A thought we’ve shared that only has meaning to a select few, or from time to time, our view on a story much bigger than ourselves. These last few days, it has been like that. The sadness behind the status I posted on Friday and then last night, something new, something profound, something that helped one come to terms with an act of despicable evil that arrived and landed, allegedly upon our doorsteps.

Thursday night, I came home from work, I was running late, so went straight upstairs to say goodnight to Oliver before he fell asleep. I came downstairs afterwards to say hello to Stephanie, my wife and I immediately saw that something was wrong? “Are you okay?” I asked, but she wasn’t and burst into tears. A couple who we’d met at a party two weekends ago had given birth to a beautiful baby boy, shared his name with our own son, but sadly complications during the pregnancy meant that the baby passed away two days later.

Our thoughts had been with them, they still are. But Saturday night came around and during the advert breaks, our phones came out and Facebook switched on. A friend of mine posted something quite nasty, something vitriolic, wishing death upon persons unknown at an address in the town that I live. I thought it sounded quite harsh and out of character of the person who posted it. But they weren’t alone, other status’s were of similar tone. Anger, disgust, shock and tension. Research found the root of all of this. It was in the news, on the Sun website, on the Daily Mail website as well as the BBC - news that made the harsh status sound quite calm and composed.

It has been reported that a month old baby from Gravesend was now in intensive care. The baby had a cardiac arrest en-route to hospital as a result of their injuries sustained during an alleged act of abuse against them by their parents. Both the articles that appear on the tabloid websites make some quite serious accusations against the accused without really backing up their stories with proof and reasoned argument.

Either way, if what has been written is true, the gravest crimes have been committed against the most precious of all victims. Crimes that go against everything we are naturally programmed to do. We are born to nurture, to care and to console. Which is why, when people hear of such things, they automatically tune into a powerful response that tries to make sense of something that is so very senseless.

Two Facebook status’s, two very different stories, both heartbreaking, both make you look at yourself introspectively, your children and your families and be grateful for what you have and if possible, appreciate them that little bit more.

Last night though, wasn’t just about my status, it was everyone from Gravesend, all showing a real sense of community spirit. Yes, there is anger and yes there are people who are willing to carry out ‘revenge’, but in the main, people displayed humility, caring and deep levels of upset for what has been allegedly committed in our town.

Via the medium of Facebook, certain details have come to light, the house in which the alleged perpetrators live, which last night became the scene of an emotional vigil. Locals standing outside with candles and leaving teddy bears in prayer that the child, whose name has also been ‘released’ pulls through and makes a recovery from their heinous injuries.

Whilst Facebook and the social media scene is great for expressing feelings of shock and anger, there are obvious pitfalls. At certain times, like during the August riots, when Facebook was awash with rumours and speculation that did nothing but create a climate of fear and worry, last night certain reports of the baby's death were untrue and unhelpful. When emotions are running high and people are discussing lynch mobs and revenge attacks it becomes a time for calmness and clarity of thought. This morning, Kent police have issued a warning which says exactly that.

Acts of evil aren’t something confined to the television, or the movies. They are, unfortunately around us and from time to time shock us with their severity. On ever rarer occasions, they happen around us, in our towns and shock our communities. Acts of evil are not a true measure of society, its how society deals with it that counts. Candles, teddy bears and quiet tears of prayer standing hand in hand with our neighbour are cause of pride. Anger, revenge and promise of retribution, however well intended are not.

Having family and a wife who work in foster-care comes with the understanding and knowledge that there are young people in this country who are being brought up in very different and sometimes dangerous circumstances. It’s not right and never will be - as long as there are people, like those that stand outside with candles and hearts that are worthy and compassionate those children are in with a chance. With prayers and a loving home, hopefully the baby at the centre of all this will be to.

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