Thursday, May 02, 2013
Hall of Infamy
In May he admitted guilt.
Stuart Hall, a man in his eighties, an Icon of broadcasting on these shores, a presenter of It's a Knockout and news and sports, a wordsmith, one of the glories of the BBC.
Guilty of indecent assault against thirteen women. One of them a nine year old girl. No matter that these charges are historic; no matter that the last of these crimes dates from nearly thirty years ago. His sins have found him out.
It's almost too painful a story.
For the victims, the avuncular tea-time TV host turned their lives to secret horror. And fear. And shame.
For his own family, the man they love has betrayed that love with sordid acts & the get-away-scot-free mentality of Celebrity that caused him to deny, deny and deny again.
For the man, his whole working life thrown away by wandering hands. Everything he ever did lost and replaced by a reputation he never sought, but earned as he now signs the sex offenders register.
For the rest of us, bewilderment. There are icons we see smashed and (frankly) something in us doesn't care. Public figures are brought low, and sometimes something in us even enjoys the process. And then occasionally there are those whose demise leaves us bereft. Even though we feel for the victims. Even though they deserve their shame. Even though they have been despicable, and not merely unlucky or foolish.
It's a bereavement. There was something certain - this was a good guy - and now the rug has been pulled, and the memory of his laughter pouring out of our TVs becomes hollow, eerie, creepy. This wasn't a good guy. The certainty was built on sand, like the castles on It's a Knockout.
Regular readers know my form. This is where I add a spiritual bit, where I turn things slightly and make us think about ourselves and don't let anyone get off lightly but also add some mercy. God is in this somewhere.
God is in this somewhere, for sure. I'll probably read someone else's blog and wish I'd written their words.
All I can add is that many years ago, someone wronged me deeply. They were regarded as a good person, and as far as I know that's still how they are seen. They never apologised to me, though to be fair I've not looked for that. I don't need such an apology, and I don't need anyone else to tell me that what they did was wrong either. What was done hurt me more than I understood at the time, and went deeper than I knew. You can't always choose the hand you are dealt - but sometimes you have to choose how you play that hand.
What did I choose? Slowly, very slowly, I learned to forgive.
It was painful, and it dominated my thinking in ways I hardly spoke of to anyone.
But it actually happened. For real.
Twelve years elapsed before I next saw this person; and in that time I often wondered how I would speak to them, what I would say, what I would ask. In the end, it was a non-event. A chance meeting. Casual. And I realised that I didn't need to say anything because, actually, I had forgiven them. I haven't seen them since.
God had walked me through painful years and together his & my tears had washed me clean. No - that's how it felt; the reality is different. The reality is that this is a broken old world, with a God who loves it so much he shed his own blood as well as his tears. I was as much forgiven as forgiving - if not for that, for other things. This was not a monster with whom I spoke, just another person; I was not a victim anymore, just another person.
I do not think that court cases, judgements and falls from grace end stories from the Halls of Infamy. But I do believe in forgiveness. Forgiveness that transforms victims into more than conquerors, and restores monsters back to humanity.