And there they stood, blocking the lifeboat. The story last week of the men on the Hastings beach preventing a life-saving boat from putting to sea became emblematic of all that was wrong with how we live now.
Just days before 27 desperate people drowned in the Channel, the lifeboat was called out for a search and rescue operation.
“Don’t bring no more back home here, that’s what we stopped our donations for,” a man shouted as the lifeboat was held up. Police were called to settle things. That moment of bleak bitterness and anger cast a long shadow.
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It can be hard to escape the sense that the incident is part of a wider and growing division, a nasty circling of the wagons: I know my rights, I’ll protect what is mine, keep those others out. You can see it in the red-faced shouting certainty of anti-mask protesters. So much energy for such a small thing. So to speak.
And it crosses borders. Last week Kevin Strickland was released after serving 42 years in a Missouri jail for a crime he didn’t commit.
He had maintained his innocence since his conviction at the age of 18. Accused and found guilty of murder and on two counts of attempted murder he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for 50 years. He always said he was at home watching TV at the time of the crime. A new review of his case showed there was no evidence against him and he was freed immediately. Imagine that life taken away because somebody trumped up a lie, and nobody would believe the truth.