Posts Tagged ‘bravery’

of monsters and heroes, and men

This week, Stephen Griffiths has appeared in court for the first time, charged with the murder of three women in Bradford. Here is a man who, when asked, gave his name as the “crossbow cannibal”(*). The case will roll on, and the tabloid papers will no doubt take a grisly delight in poring over the details as they emerge. While at this stage we cannot know his guilt or innocence (that is for the court, for the jury to decide), what we can know is that someone, most likely a man, murdered these three women, dismembered them and disposed of them as waste.

I cannot (and I am glad of this) imagine what must happen to a man to turn them into this kind of a monster. I cannot imagine how life can be so casually – so callously – taken. I cannot begin to think about the fear, pain and suffering that this bastard put those women through. It is sickening. It is obscene. The evil that men do must not be tolerated, must not be explained away as ‘society’ or ‘illness’.

Does a monster (or the potential of a monster) exist inside each of us? Is there a capacity, a series of changes, detachments and experiences that can turn someone’s son into a sadistic killer? Or are some people just evil? Pure and uncomplicated evil?

I do not know. Yet the fact that so much of the pain and suffering brought into this world is at the decisions and hands of other people, suggests that sadly, this can all too often be the case.

Cpl Stephen Walker, who died on Saturday 22nd May, is the 286th British soldier to die in Afghanistan(*). Every single loss is a tragedy. Every soldier killed is a son, a father, a daughter, a wife.

I am in awe of our armed forces precisely because they are able to do something that I know I could not do. To travel to another country, to live under the constant threat of attack, bombing and armed assault. To follow orders unswervingly and without question. To know that your actions and decisions hold the lives of your comrades and colleagues in the balance. It is a terrifying proposition. And yet our soldiers do exactly that, every day.

Every day they act on behalf of us, to uphold the decisions and orders of our Government. It is a burden they carry with honour, and one they do not carry lightly.

A hero isn’t always the one who saves the day. A hero is the one who does what is right and has the courage to be true to themselves and honour their word.

If our elected ministers took the burden of responsibility for military action as seriously as our armed forces, then perhaps less of our soldiers would be placed in combat situations ill-prepared and under-resourced.(*)

If our elected ministers had collectively taken the role they stand for more seriously, then perhaps we would not be in a situation where even now the shame and embarrassment of the expenses scandal continues to claim casualties.

David Laws, (ex) Chief Secretary to the Treasury has been the first (but probably not the last) cabinet minister to resign – just 18 days into his new job.

What Mr Laws did was wrong. Many ministers have pathetically mewed that their outrageous claims were within guidelines. It matters not whether something can be done, the bigger question is whether it should be done. MP’s on £65k a year should know better than claiming for duck castles, hiring family members as staff, profiteering on property sales – properties paid for by the taxpayer.

David Laws continued to claim ‘rent’ to the tune of £950 per month for 4 years after rules were changed in 2006, effectively banning the type of claim he continued to make. This was bound to catch up with him sooner or later. The weakness of Mr Laws it would seem, was fear. He claims that he claimed ‘rent’ for a room in his partners house so that his sexuality could be kept secret. If that was really the case, why make any claims at all? Why create a paper trail of bogus claims?

I am not going to suggest that being gay is easy or that David Laws should have come out. The pain, fear and shame of being ‘different’ is too personal, too much a part of the individual for anyone else to be qualified to pass judgement upon. Open-ness and understanding, and tentative steps towards equality are continually being made regarding sexual identity. There is still a long way to go, there is still so much intolerance and hate to be overcome.

I do not necessarily believe that coming to terms with being gay justifies claiming £40,000 rent in direct contravention of Parliamentary rules. To me it sums up not issues with sexuality, but with human weakness. The simple truth is that people are prone to fail, to make mistakes, to do the wrong thing when faced with an array of sound choices.

This week, we have had a week (like last week, and the week before that), where we can take pride in the good that people bring to the world, and we can give our love and support to those who have suffered loss. We recoil from the horror that lurks within our communities. And finally, we take lessons in humility and restraint from people (perhaps very similar to us), who had the chance to do the right thing, and who let themselves down.

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