If you were in a stadium, and the P.A announced that there was to be a minutes silence, would you observe it?
Say it was for a player who died, for a professional athlete from another sport, a former great who casts a long shadow over a game.
How about for ceremonial purposes? For Anzac Day, or Remembrance Day, or Armistice Day.
And how about for a political leader? Surely, you would stand for a former Prime Minister. Whether their impact on the country was rather benign, or if it was profound, would you not put that aside and mark the passing of a significant figure?
Clubs in Britain are currently considering whether or not to hold a minute of silence before matches this week, to mark the death of Margaret Thatcher. One side of the argument is stated above, though the other has in my view equal merit.
Many football clubs are the embodiment of working class communities, particularly in the north of England. Thatcher may have been beloved by the conservative and the wealthy, but to some in Britain she was and remains the incarnation of callous political evil. There is a genuine sense of joy in many parts of Great Britain, indeed the world, that her death is a blessing. Football administrators wonder, and rightly so, that if they insist on a minute of silence it will be ignored, and probably in an extremely crude fashion.
This raises an interesting question about the ceremonial silence that occurs so much in sport. Often these are very political gestures, particularly in a nationalist context. Australia’s cricketers observed a minute of silence, as well as a poem dedicated to fallen soldiers, as well as a bugle playing the Last Post, during a test match last year that coincided with Remembrance Day. World War One was a long time ago, so isn’t very controversial now. However, the day is also used as a ceremony to mark soldiers fallen in all conflicts fought by Australians. What if you don’t believe that Australian soldiers should have been in Vietnam, or even more currently, Iraq and Afghanistan?
The legacy of Thatcher is undoubtedly still with us too. Whether or not you approve of what she did, she profoundly impacted and changed Britain. In doing so, she influenced the world. Undoubtedly, the changes wrought by Thatcher will continue to be felt for generations. The successes, for those that experienced them will be remembered and celebrated. The scars, for the many that bore the brunt of Thatcher’s reforms, have not all healed.
Why should they have to mark the death of a hated political leader with a minute of silence? Just because a politician was great, and Thatcher was undoubtedly that, does not mean people have to agree that she was good. Some politicians transcend that, Winston Churchill for example was widely disliked politically when he left office, but universally respected. That sense of respect does not exist for Thatcher in many working class communities.
There are few sights more sickening than the spectacle of a fresh grave being metaphorically danced upon. That is exactly what will happen in many parts of Britain if authorities insist on a minute of silence. There would be no silence, and that would be a terrible and divisive situation. Far wiser would be to leave the whole idea alone in this case, so as not to provoke such a spectacle. For some clubs, perhaps more rugby clubs than football clubs, a minute of silence will be observed, and that too is fine. But there is nothing worse or more politically dangerous than trying to force people into showing respect for politicians they have no respect for.