‘We admire the Paralympians because they chose not to sulk or retreat into self-pity, or to use their problem as an excuse.’
Image courtesy of nickmilleruk via flickr.com ©©
What’s your excuse? We all have them, some nasty experience which we secretly or openly blame when we do something bad or fail to do what was expected of us.
Nooragha Zadran, now 18 and living in this country, says that when he was only five, his parents were killed when a bomb struck their Afghan home. Forced to fend for his younger brother by begging, he left the boy in a playground and never found him again.
Pretty bad, eh? A Judge, Nigel Seed QC, thought it bad enough to spare Zadran prison after he was convicted of playing an active part in the violent disorders which convulsed Britain 13 months ago.
The Judge suspended his sentence, saying : ‘No other defendant will have appeared in front of the courts in such circumstances. That is why you are not being sentenced to two to three years in prison.’
What struck me about this case – apart from the rank ingratitude of throwing missiles at the police, in a country which has given you shelter – was this.
We have just rightly celebrated the triumphs of hundreds of Paralympic athletes. Each of them has an excuse for almost any bad act, or any failure. Some were born without limbs, or disadvantaged in other important ways, doomed to live in an unkind and impatient world which even now is not as generous to them as it would like to believe. Some were almost destroyed by diseases. Others were terribly injured in peace or war.
But we admire them, and honour them, precisely because they chose not to sulk or retreat into self-pity, or to use their problem as an excuse.
Of course, not all disabled people can be Paralympians, though I hope it is open to all of them – as it is to physically healthy people who undergo severe misfortune - to embrace the same spirit and live their lives with grit and courage.
In that case is it not equally true that even those who have had terrible childhood experiences, such as Nooragah Zadran, can rise above them?
What then is Judge Nigel Seed saying to those who experienced all kinds of horrors of war, deprivation and neglect, yet still manage to become good, law-abiding citizens of the country that has taken them in?
What in general is our justice system saying to those who, in grief or pain or loss or tragedy, have sought to cancel out their misfortunes or their tragedies by doing good to others, and by living exemplary lives?
Is it kind or wise to accept excuses, and encourage the making of excuses? Don’t we all know in our hearts that our own actions are our own fault, and we must take the blame for them?