The local election results are coming in as I write this. Gains for the fascist British National Party were predicatble, after recent news stories, but we have to face the knowledge that in some areas the majority of voters (I think in some seats it was an overall majority) entered a polling station and put their crosses beside the name of a BNP candidate.
We could blame others. Government statements and policies have created and encouraged a climate of fear and hatred. But if we permitted the government to assume power, those statements and policies are our responsibility too. It's harder - but not impossible - to challenge media attitudes. The media need us as purchasers so that they can sell space to advertisers. A boycott of papers which cynically promote hatred is possible.
The defence of freedom of speech has a corresponding duty - I have to exercise free speech to challenge views which I regard as damaging and dangerous.
Challenging views which lead people to vote BNP is not easy. I don't know if new BNP voters feel helpless and powerless in the present political structure. I can see why a sense of helplessness might lead to the kind of bad behaviour which attracts attention. Whether or not that is the case, there's an urgent need to involve many more people - from all society - in real political debate rather than focus group soundings.
When people listen to one another they develop and grow - they learn to understand the needs of others while working through their own political stance and potential for action. The big anti-war march in London gave me hope, not because it could have stopped the war, but because people from a range of backgrounds and with different views talked and listened to one another. People came from the isolation of a group of like-minded people and started to develop and express new ideas. This isn't an easy or quick process - we all need time to reflect and think.
In the meantime, I don't know what to do. I shall do my best to listen and respond thoughtfully to a range of views. I shall do my best to see everyone as my equal. There's a lot to be said - still - for the old French slogan of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.
Note: Please post suggestions for a non-sexist alternative to fraternity. I like its suggestion that we are all members of the same family - and that we have the same position in that family - but we are definitely not all male!