The Resilience of London — and Londoners

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Host Scott Simon shares some thoughts on London and Londoners.


Riding the subways of London can be the best cheap theater ticket in the world. Each day, The Underground conveys and displays a flabbergasting assortment of the peoples who breathe life into what has become the most diverse city on Earth: men in work shirts carrying thermoses and The Daily Mirror, women in pinstriped suits carrying briefcases and The Financial Times, silver-haired brokers, blue-haired punkers, robed Africans, turbaned Sikhs, skateboarders and Hasidim, teens with nose rings, stiff-collared clerics and school kids of all colors in soccer sweaters. London subways are one of the world's great circulatory systems. Get on board at Piccadilly Circus and see the world.

For centuries, London's great grace has been to hold so many opposing forces together in the same place: royals, revolutionaries and, we were reminded this week, sometimes terrorists. The motives and methods of the people who bombed London's subways and a bus on Thursday are necessary stories for news organizations, but personally, I am just about as interested in why people launch such chicken-hearted attacks, to use a British phrase, as I am in the motives of any other mass murder. I would rather learn about the lives that were lost, the pluck of the rescuers and the sense of purpose of people who may be knocked down but bind their wounds and keep on going. I prefer to hear the famously stiff upper lips of Londoners part for jokes, laughter and songs.

For people who consider diversity, tolerance, enterprise and irreverence corrupting forces, London, like New York and other great cities, will be at ground zero of their fears, but for many who seek the freedom to change, experiment, dare, strive and try, we were reminded this week that London shines a light that guides people in from all over the world.

(Soundbite of music)

Sir NOEL COWARD: (Singing) Ah, the rain and the pavements glistening, all Park Lane in a shimmering gown--nothing ever could break or harm the charm of London town. In our city darkened now, street and square and crescent, we can feel our living past in our shadowed present. Ghosts beside our starlit Thames who lived and loved and died keep throughout the ages London pride. London pride has been handed down to us. London pride is a flower that's free. London pride means our own dear town to us, and our pride it forever will be. Gray city stubbornly implanted, taken so for granted for a thousand years. Stay, city, smokily enchanted, cradle of our memories, our hopes and fears. Every Blitz your resistance toughening, from the Ritz to the anchor and crown, nothing could override the pride of London town.

SIMON: Sir Noel Coward, at 18 minutes past the hour.

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