Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Undue punishment

I'm always dismayed by those people who no longer see someone as a human being, no longer sympathise with their personal problems or emotional crises simply because they've said or done something that's deemed insulting or distasteful.

Jim Wells, a Stormont MLA, has been vilified by many people since he told a gay couple back in April that children with gay parents might be abused. He also told a lesbian couple he disagreed with their lifestyle.

His remarks were clearly homophobic and were investigated by the Public Prosecution Service, who said last week he wouldn't be charged with any offence.

But a lot of people decided that having made such insulting comments, he was beyond the pale and should become a social pariah indefinitely.

This strikes me as shockingly mean and heartless, as for some time now his private life has been hell after his wife Grace suffered two devastating strokes, can't communicate with him and is barely aware of the outside world.

He has been intensely lonely and depressed and desperately misses the close relationship he had with his wife, the one person he shared every detail of his life with. He says the past six months have been the darkest of his life.

He has been deeply hurt after people he had known for four decades - and who he considered friends - stopped contacting him after the incidents in April.

"The phone went very silent for a while" he said. "I was maybe getting just two or three calls a day from a core group of people and I don't think I would have got through everything without their support. People I thought were friends stopped contacting me even to ask about Grace, and that was very difficult to cope with."

We all sometimes make stupid and ill-judged comments. But that shouldn't mean that people stop caring about us, stop sympathising with our personal misfortunes, and treat us like some kind of evil monster.

It's an undeserved punishment.

Pic: Jim Wells

15 comments:

Bijoux said...

I don't know the background of the story.....he made homophobic comments to strangers and he held a political office? He doesn't sounds like the sharpest tool in the shed!

However, I do agree that it's terrible when friends drop you for mistakes made that have nothing to do with the friendship. I've seen it happen over politics and divorces. You find out who your real friends are fast.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Unfortunately many of the politicians here (especially in the DUP) are religious zealots and homophobic comments are quite common. Very true, when you're embroiled in some controversial issue like that, you do discover who are your real friends and who are the hangers-on who desert you when you're embarrassing them.

John Gray said...

We may not like what some people say, but we need to respect their right to say them

Nick said...

John: Yes, within reason anyway. The fundamental right to talk crap every so often. Obviously someone advocating mass murder would be a different matter.

tammy j said...

surely grace's illness now is punishment enough.
i agree with you.
our whole country seems to be splitting apart over basic humanity issues.
i will never understand how SO MANY vehement self proclaimed christian people can treat their fellow human beings in such an un christian like manner. as a matter of fact... they're downright cruel. hypocrites to the core in my book. you're either KIND or you're NOT. and to me it's all about simple kindness.
and as to friends dropping him. they were not really his friends.
good riddance.

Nick said...

Tammy: My problem entirely with religion. So many self-righteous believers treat other people so badly. As I first discovered at my ultra-religious boarding school, where I was bullied for four years by so-called christians. As you say, either you're kind or you're not.

CheerfulMonk said...

My heart goes out to him, as well as to anyone he might have hurt. I hate nastiness.

Anonymous said...

Poor chap...under enough strain to forget to hide his views from public consumption.

Nick said...

Jean: Such extreme ostracism is uncalled-for. Yes, he offended people, but that hardly justifies permanent freezing-out.

Anon: Indeed, the unguarded remarks of stressed-out politicians often give us a tantalising glimpse of what they really believe.

Rummuser said...

Dissent and the right to dissent now a days seems to be a one sided affair. Politically correct behaviour excludes dissent from people who believe otherwise and they are exposed to this kind of treatment from the so called liberals. In my book, this is not liberalism but following the herd which is being led by the current fad going under the garb of liberalism.

Nick said...

Ramana: I think the idea of political correctness is thrown about rather carelessly, and often used as an off-the-peg insult in a situation where a more measured response would be appropriate. Yes, sometimes absurd arguments are put forward to justify dotty "politically correct" attitudes, but at other times so-called political correctness is fine because it just means treating other people with consideration and respect. If it's PC not to call someone a nigger or a poofter or a tranny, that's okay by me.

Keith Smith said...

If you call someone from Pakistan a "Paki" that is considered racist and offensive, but if I am called a "Brit" that is socially acceptable, despite the fact that I am offended.

Nick said...

Keith: Good point. Mind you, I'm happy to be called a Brit. In fact I often refer to myself as a Brit. But then, nobody's ever called me that in an insulting way. If they did, I might reconsider the term.

Likewise, I'm happy to be called an oldie, though some people aren't.

Jenny Woolf said...

It's lousy of his friends if they stopped communicating with him even though they knew his personal situation.

Nick said...

Jenny: When you're in a tight spot, you find out who your real friends are, as they say.