Off the back of World Voice Day and in the wake of, well… a wake, I was prompted to post something; use my best internet voice to say something on this prolific day: the day The Iron Lady is buried.
I can’t claim to know all the ins and outs of her reign in politics, or how it has affected the current climate for the better or worse. Being only three when she ended her run as Britain’s first female Prime Minister, I can’t comment much on her milk-snatching, mine-stopping and industrialising ways. In fact, I can’t even claim to be as interested as I know I should be, in politics in general. But, as I heard the news of Margaret Thatcher’s passing last week, knowing that her name and reign is so important to British history – to my history, therefore – I felt sad (strangely) and channelled a weird sort of respect in the direction of my TV.
A significant woman, though I didn’t know her, had just disappeared from our lifespan, but not in a vacuous, vacant-patch-on-the-universe sort of way – Thatcher had gone but far from entirely. Shuffling news desk papers and essentially backstroking a whole generation of Thatcherism-scorned cats, the news hit everyone with varying levels of impact. Obviously this sparked unfiltered Facebook statuses and ‘oh-no-they-didn’t’-inducing headlines. The most memorable slogan I read last week was eloquently scrawled ‘The Bitch is Dead’, proving the marmite effect the former Prime Minister had, and that not all of Britain can #keepitclassy upon the death of an elderly woman.
Even in this moment, as The BBC broadcasts her funeral in St Paul’s Cathedral, Margaret Thatcher is still motivating a divided public. Some mourn in support and line the streets to pay their respects; others are expected to make a scene at some point during the service to spite her – perhaps something more stylish than the disappointing (read: disgusting) street parties that kick-started at the news of her passing.
But for better or worse, it is the fact Maggie moved people at all that deserves the state funeral she has been awarded – the one her haters (Yeah, I could say opposers, but let’s be real: if you can dance the streets over someone’s death, you are definitely filled with hate) have debated and called a disgrace. One Facebook status this morning said “An old lady has died RIP but I don’t give a shit – why the fuck are tax payers paying for this?!” Strong opinions concur that such levels of fuss shouldn’t have been made, as to many Thatcher just isn’t worth it, and even The BBC’s commentators remarked how Cherie Blair – ex- Prime Minister’s wife, who had organised the funeral – would probably be looking around and wondering ‘How much is all this costing?’
Regardless of what half the country seems to think though, as her coffin toured London’s streets, Margaret Thatcher was applauded; a standing ovation for a woman who stood for something marked her unending moment in British history. Flowers were thrown at her gun carriage and while whether or not she achieved what she set out for is, has and will always be debated, to argue whether or not The Iron Lady deserves such recognition seems pointless. Thatcher is recognised, by both her supporters and despisers, for her actions – for her attempt at making a difference. And, whether or not I know the ins and outs of what she called her “11 and a half wonderful years” in government, she has made a difference to me, if only to my sometimes wilting motivation.
I think – if I can, with those high-pitched choir boys singing, I assume to dogs, in the background as I type – that one should only hope to go out with the peace that Maggie must have, knowing that she’d tried; made a permanent impression during her time; did something more than just living quietly, dying quieter and leaving people still and unmoved. Bearing witness to the legacy (whatever you may make of it) Thatcher has left is inspiring to many people in many different ways, but personally I find positive encouragement in people who set out to achieve better things for themselves and their peers; in people who trust their her own instincts and are determined in their mission. To reach somebody in the ripples of what you intend to be good deeds, and to be remembered at all after you’re gone, is the highest of achievements to strive towards.
Appreciate what she stood for or throw her a hate party, it all adds to the legacy she leaves. Many would be quick to remind you that regardless what you do and how you do it, not everyone will like you or even understand your actions. Baroness Thatcher said, “I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning,” so I very much doubt this woman – un-phased the daunting task she faced and un-shaken by even the IRA bomb set to kill her – will be a-turning in her grave at any unkind words written in the press and on the internet. Similarly, I’ll take no notice of others’ opinions on her work or her death, as some of the most poignant words I’ve come across during this week’s Thatcher/state funeral saga, have been the ones she once wrote in a letter, part of which was read during her funeral service: “There will be times in life when we will do or say something we wish we hadn’t.” An obvious thing to share and not the best of political statements, but I will try to make sure that by the end of my life, like Margaret Thatcher, I did and said the things I wished to, whether people applauded me for it or ended up wishing I had a cheaper funeral. And chances are, whatever the legacy you choose to leave behind, the feeling will probably not be mutual.