Bridge over Troubled Water

Who knows what goes on in the mind of a terrorist? Who would want
to? Lately, it seems their twisted logic dictates that even an eight-year-old
child is their enemy, even a teenage girl wearing bunny ears in a worthy
opponent. They loathe children then and blonde social workers who want to make the world a better place. Crazed with hate and bloodlust, they seek to destroy our young and beautiful, who dare to celebrate life in good company, with a drink in their hand and love in their hearts. 

Twice, in London, they have chosen a bridge to start their killing on. Why a bridge? It could as easily be a road they drive along, buildings imprisoning their victims. But they chose a bridge. You could make the argument that a bridge acts as a funnel. That in defence terms a bridge is a pinch point, a trap. There are no doors and windows to escape a speeding vehicle driven with deadly intent. Only a parapet and a long, and potentially fatal, drop into a cold river or onto a hard road beneath.

But there’s another power to a death on a bridge, because a bridge holds a promise of change that a terrorist fears as much as he despises. A terrorist is trapped in his ideology, in his thinking. He can’t allow change, or challenge, or doubt, or movement,  or his entire medieval belief system collapses.

And a bridge is a crossing. From here to there. From far away to closer. From me to you, and from you to me. A crossing we must make together into the future. And a bridge in wood, stone, concrete, or steel is a small victory against nature. Abutments and soaring arches and loadbearing footings prove man’s intelligence. His difference. His refusal to accept the limits imposed by rivers and valleys, his decision to shape his world, to draw that world closer. To move forward.

Bridges have a power of their own. In Norse mythology, Bifrost, the rainbow bridge links Asgard, the world of the gods to Misgard, the world of humanity. In the Zoroastrian religion there is a Chinvat bridge which separates the living from the dead, which all souls must cross at death. And in Islam, there is an al-Sirat bridge, thinner than a hair, sharper than a sword, believed to be a bridge which will be laid across Hell, which everyone must pass over to reach heaven.

And back on earth, a bridge is a place of order. This way – pedestrians. This way – cycles. This way – cars. Each to their own route. In contrast to the disorder the terrorists hope to spread as they swerve from side to side, onto the pavement, back onto the road, onto another pavement seeding chaos and tragedy.

So too, Hitler destroyed bridges as he retreated. The bridges of Florence aside from the Ponte Vecchio. The bridges over the Rhine, apart from the Ludendorff Bridge that Allied soldiers captured. It eventually collapsed, but its capture is credited with shortening the war. ISIS too is in retreat. It can’t blow up our bridges, so its fanatics cut down those who dare to use them. Dare to cross and connect.

We know from our earliest years that monsters lurk underneath bridges. Trolls and things that threaten to devour us and ours, things lurk in the darkness, but we chose to walk across our bridges anyway. Our footsteps – one infront of the other, one person after the next. Let the trolls lurk and hear the sound of the undefeated passing overhead. 

The bridges are changing. Concrete bollards, metal barriers. They are evolving to meet the challenges posed by crazy psychopaths locked into killing, who believe murder finally makes them somebody when in reality all that murder does is to make them nobody at all. 

It’s right they change. Bridges are a conversation between humanity and nature, humanity with itself. They offer a promise of arrival. A transition. Spanning, connecting – we build them to reach the other side and to reach each other. What terrorist doesn’t hate that idea. For terrorism to succeed, we must isolate ourselves from each other–from the ‘other’. From other communities. From Muslims. From girls who want to wear headscarves rather than bunny ears. We need bridges now more than ever. We’ve built them. We’ll continue to build them. We’ll cross them and we’ll continue to cross them. 

Britain isn’t reeling whatever a ridiculous man with a twitchy Twitter account wants to believe. London Bridge isn’t falling down any day soon.