57 minus 36: Kickyball, the morning after…

Posted: 12 July 2021 in 57 minus, racism
Tags: , , ,

Given my previous post about sport, it would be egregiously hypocritical, not to say massively stupid, to claim that ‘I’m proud of the England team’ for their performance in Euros 2020*. Every bit, in fact, as hypocritical as it would have been were I to assert that I’d have been ashamed had they lost every match in the group stage by seven goals to nil.

(*yeah, 2020; it was postponed from last year, but they kept the year, because… well, because… well, look, they’d printed the merch already, ok?)

So, I genuinely had no intention to comment on last night’s match. And, to be fair, I don’t intend to comment much about the match itself.

I don’t know enough about football to say with any knowledge whether they played well, or played badly, during the match itself.

I think I can say without fear of contradiction that any team that reaches the final of a major tournament has done very well indeed, whether or not it goes to penalties.

But I can’t say much more than that. Not and be able to look at myself in the mirror… without wincing at my pretended knowledge and experience anyway.

I mean, yes, ok, sure, I look in the mirror and wince all the time at what I see, but that’s in response to what I look like, not necessarily because of what I’ve done.

So, no, I can’t and won’t talk about the match itself. I didn’t watch it, I had no interest in it beyond a general but genuine wish that they did well because friends and people I like cared about the result.

And I like my friends to be happy, to have a nice time. I may not understand their passion, but hey, they rarely understand me. That’s fine.

And I can also say that during the tournament, off the pitch, the team and their coach/manager have conducted themselves with dignity, with style and in every way have shown they’re thrillingly proud to play for their country.

But after the match? While I have nothing but praise for how the players and manager conducted themselves, everyone else? People on social media? What came after the match? What inevitably came after…?

Sadly, that I can talk about with some knowledge and experience. For I’ve encountered vile abuse and racist abuse and vile racist abuse on Twitter far too many times to easily count.

But it wasn’t only the racist – or at least the obviously, overt, in your face, racist – stuff that pains me.

Although, for clarity, I should say that it does pain me, disgust me, fill me with fury.

So, Natalie Elphick. She’s a Conservative MP, who was elected to the seat of Dover and Deal, who tweeted last night, after the match that

“They lost – would it be ungenerous to suggest Rashford should have spent more time perfecting his game and less time playing politics.”

I mean, there’s so much wrong with that tweet that it’s difficult to know quite where to start: the idea that someone [the ‘who should know better’ is silent] expressing a political opinion is merely ‘playing politics’ is insulting in and of itself. It’s a slam, aimed at a player who has campaigned for free school meals for children. And Elphick thought he was a suitable target for her dismay. I’d say ‘because he missed a penalty’, but that merely provided the excuse for her criticism.

Then there’s the whole ‘taking the knee is playing politics’, implying that rather Rashford (and others) aren’t drawing attention to, and expressing sympathy for, those facing racism. No, the suggestion is that it’s performative, done for publicity. I’d call that, coming from a Tory MP, chutzpah, except that term implies some kind of reluctant admiration for the audacity and there’s nothing about her I admire.

Small sidebar: I should be used by now to the venal nature of British politics, how no snide comment is below most politicians, indeed most British politicians, and how hypocrisy often seems inherent in British politics

But even so, even knowing that, I was – and remain – astonished at just how blatant both Boris Johnson and Priti Patel were in their utter, overt hypocrisy. by

  1. slamming the England team, and management for taking the knee, for taking a stand against racism, and then
  2. their eager, anxious ‘but we wuv you really…’, complete with wearing t-shirts, laying an enormous England flag in Downing Street and attempting to associate themselves with the team’s success.

Mitch Benn sums it up, as so often, for me, but if anything, for once he’s too kind.

But of course there was another message, a contemptuous one: the old arrogance of incompetents: the suggestion that THEY get to TELL someone ELSE how to prioritise their time.

I’ve seen the occasional defence of ‘well, she’s only asking a question’, which immediately brings to mind two responses.

1, the less serious one: I’d have thought that she was educated enough to actually end a question with a question mark, you know?

  1. The more serious one: I gave up accepting the inherent good faith supposed by “I’m only asking the question” years ago. Decades ago now. After the first time I came across it, used on that occasion as a cover for naked antisemitism.

It was on Compuserve’s UK Politics Forum. A councillor — I don’t think the party is relevant but others seem to; he was a Tory – from St Ives, asked re the Blood Libel “How can we be sure some bizarre sectlet of Jews…”

When pretty much everyone on the Forum exploded in anger, the defence he offered was, of course, “I’m only asking a question…”

So, yeah, she wasn’t just asking a question.

What truly puzzled me, however, were the responses to her follow up.

Because, this morning, presumably after she’d had blowback to the tweet, she deleted it and tweeted the following:

OK, so she tried to get away with just that. Not exactly unusual for a politician, especially an MP.

And that’s still not what surprised me. No, what surprised me were tweets like the following.

So I asked the following…

Which I think is a fair question, and of course, I’m not ‘just asking the question’, as I said in a follow up

But Mason, a journalist whose work I truly enjoy, wasn’t the only one saying she’d apologised. Many others did and though later they quoted her saying she regretted the tweet, and apologising to Rashford, there was no tweet from her containing either the regret or a direct apology.

I’ve written on apologies before, once or twice.

On what might seem – but isn’t, I promise – a tangential point, I thoroughly enjoyed Marvel’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Apart from everything else, though, one snippet of dialogue impressed me hugely, and continues to.

One character, realising he was wrong about something, knows he has to apologise.

“I owe you an apology….” and then “I’m sorry.”

Not ‘I owe you an apology’ instead of “I’m sorry”, not saying “I owe you an apology” and treating saying that as the apology.

No, “I owe you an apology….” as a preface to actually apologising, as mere acknowledgement of “I’m sorry” to come.

Too many do the first bit without the second; too few deliver on the second bit.

You know that line about ‘you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression’? And the one about ‘when someone shows you who they are, believe them’?

Natalie Elphick, Boris Johnson, Priti Patel and so, so many others have shown us, and then shown us again and again and again.

Our primus inter mendaces threw in his own tweet today. Because of course he did.

“…should be ashamed of themselves.”


Well, among the condemnation, something else is needed.

Because expecting the racists to be ashamed of their racism is like expecting rain to be ashamed of being wet.

But maybe, just maybe, those responsible in politics, sports, campaigns, and political parties, saying racists and bigots shame the very thing they purport to support and represent… that the people in charge are ashamed of, and shamed by, them…. would be a start.

See you tomorrow, with… the usual ‘Turesday’ something else.



Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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