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Husband of Murdered MP Jo Cox Explains Why, Despite Everything, We Must Remain Optimistic

In a moving op-ed published in the New York Times, Brendan Cox, activist and husband of the murdered British MP Jo Cox, has spoken out against the rise of extremism and bigotry in mainstream politics.

Describing the changing tide of politics in recent years, his words condemn the toxic rhetoric and divisive atmosphere that created the context for his wife’s death. 

“All our lives, Jo and I had been optimists. Almost by instinct, we both believed that the world was getting better and that it would continue to do so,” he writes.

“Earlier this year, for the first time, she and I started to doubt that.” 

Killed one week before the EU referendum, MP Jo Cox was a passionate advocate for social justice at home and abroad — from raising the cause of Syrian refugees in the UK Parliament to working to combat the problem of loneliness in her home constituency. 

“She was a woman who constantly looked for the best in people and situations,” her husband says. 

Determined to keep this spirit of optimism alive, Cox is not afraid to directly confront the negative forces that contributed to his wife’s death. 

“Members of Parliament don’t get murdered in Britain; this horrific event was surely an aberration. Yet it happened in a context that makes such aberrations more likely — one in which pro-Brexit posters featuring a picture of Syrian families seeking safety claimed the country was at “breaking point” and in which parts of the media routinely demonize migrants and refugees. After the referendum, there was a 42 percent increase in hate crimes. Last month, two Polish men were set upon by a gang of youths in Harlow, Essex, and one was beaten to death. This is not just a British problem.”

Naming the “demagogues” in France, Hungary, and the USA that have stoked xenophobia and division, Cox warns against complacency and promises to continue to fight against hate and intolerance.

“I’ve thought about what we can do to advance Jo’s beliefs. While she worried about the direction of politics in many countries, she was never despondent. She knew from a lifetime of activism that most people are good, and that human empathy is a powerful force for change.”

This week, Cox attended a summit in New York hosted by President Obama to urge world leaders to take collective responsibility for the world’s 65 million refugees. 

Resilient to the end, even in a hostile world, Cox’s continued belief in compassion and hope is a moving testament to his wife’s legacy — and a powerful challenge to us all.