Monday, July 11, 2005

The Stiff Upper Lip

The mythology surrounding the British stiff upper lip is absolutely true, I have found this week.

Less than a week after four bombs exploded in central London, life continues, much as it did before. The news may be focused on finding the perpetrators and identifying the victims, but for many Londoners, we have acknowledged the bombings, discussed the aftermath, and vowed that life will not change because of some cowardly terrorists.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a stiff upper lip as “An attitude of determined endurance or restraint in the face of adversity.” No picture illustrated the definition, but if a lip were to be included, it would most definitely belong to a Londoner.

London comes by its collective strength honestly. One newsreader said this weekend, “London, like the rest of Britain, carries on in spite of its wounds. Scars will heal. Evil will never win.” However, the narrator was speaking not of the terrorist bombings on Thursday, but of the bombings during World War Two, 65 years ago.

This is a city that survived a five-day fire in 1666. This is a city that survived bombings by the Nazis during World War Two, when parents had to evacuate their own children to the countryside so they would be safe. This is a city that survived random bombings by the Irish Republican Army in the 1980s, when no one knew when or where the next bomb would be.

London has been battered before, but never beaten. People are getting on with their lives because they believe that by doing so, they are defying the terrorists. Londoners believe if they were to stay off the Underground, or change their life in other ways, that would be capitulation to the terrorists, because that’s what they want us to do. So we carry on.

“The people responsible for this bombing understand evil, but they don’t understand us,” one person wrote to the Daily Mail.

The London bombings showed me British resilience and courage, but it also drove home something else: people are tested in all sorts of ways every day.

During one of the calls I made to tell friends and family we were safe, one good friend told me that their 21-month-old daughter was having seizures and they didn’t know why. My brother in Panama City, Fla. called to see if we were okay just before he had to evacuate due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Dennis. When I called my cousin in Atmore, Ala. on Sunday to tell him we were fine, he was waiting to see what destruction Hurricane Dennis would bring.

So while London’s bombings were tragic and terrible, they were just one type of test people around the world had to endure last week. But wherever they are, people should use the British stiff upper lip as a fine example of steely resolve in the face of adversity, whatever or wherever that may be.

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