Author Topic: Bonnell: Here's why the leap to judge Joshua Boyle cheapens us all  (Read 63 times)

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Bonnell: Here's why the leap to judge Joshua Boyle cheapens us all

In the days since his rescue from captivity, many have taken the measure of Joshua Boyle. The angriest assessments seem to be that he is an idiot, a terrorist sympathizer and a narcissist. “No pity,” screamed some on Twitter in Trumpian caps lock. “No welcome mat,” wrote others. It’s said with barely concealed relish. It […]

In the days since his rescue from captivity, many have taken the measure of Joshua Boyle.


The angriest assessments seem to be that he is an idiot, a terrorist sympathizer and a narcissist.


“No pity,” screamed some on Twitter in Trumpian caps lock. “No welcome mat,” wrote others.


It’s said with barely concealed relish. It seems, at times, to verge on gleeful disdain.


And it leaves me cold.


I understand the assessment, certainly.


A man with dubious past associations (read: Omar Khadr) takes his vulnerable wife (read: pregnant or sexist) into a dangerous (read: any) area of Afghanistan, at best on a fool’s errand of aid.


And they pay the consequences. Horrible, brutish consequences that see her raped and one of their children murdered, according to Boyle.


I get it. A fool or worse reaps his wages. It could be a parable: A Biblical lesson told to children about the price to be paid for poor choices.


The same conversations inevitably come up around Amanda Lindhout, whose own lived hell is being revisited right now in an Ottawa courtroom.


Lindhout’s ordeal is undeniable. Its details are chilling.


But she’s long been viewed critically in journalistic circles for being foolish or reckless before her abduction.


So, two “idiots,” as some have called them, either privately or publicly. Two people whose actions contributed to their circumstances. Bring on the vitriol. Trigger the resentment.


But here’s where I’d humbly beg to differ.


When did we become so stingy with our pity? When did its supply become so scarce and its dispensation so dear?


I can believe Joshua Boyle acted foolishly yet still feel for the suffering he’s described as well as that of his wife and their children. I can question whether Amanda Lindhout was reckless, and still feel heartbroken when I hear the details of her experience.


But there seem to be many in the public and media who cannot find it in themselves to do the same, and that worries me.


They cling to their outrage and their indignation as if afraid of dropping them, to borrow a phrase.


Perhaps I’ve had more opportunities in my life to play the fool than they have. Perhaps I’ve tilted at more windmills and fallen on my ass more than they. Certainly not on the scale of Boyle and Lindhout. Frankly, I never had that kind of conviction.


I don’t mean to cast Joshua Boyle as heroic, but we can at least call him human, until someone shows me otherwise. If his truth is more dark, we will likely see it.


A fool or not, he has suffered in ways few of those raging have. He and his family have seemingly known pain few of us ever will.


It’s not suspicion or skepticism that troubles me. It’s the condemnation.


Those so quick to denounce a man freshly freed from five years of captivity are perhaps trying to answer to themselves that question we all ask when someone we know (or learn about through the media) suffers great tragedy: How could this happen to a person?


And, the unspoken question that inevitably follows: Could that ever happen to me, to someone I care about?


Maybe, yelling “fool,” at these people reminds us that we are different, so very different, that what happened to them could never happen to us. It distances us from their horrific fate, lends some sense to what would otherwise be too hard to reconcile in a world we want to have some fairness, some reason.


“Joshua Boyle was a fool; I am no fool. Why should I pity him?”


I’d argue it’s because it costs us no treasure to pity Joshua Boyle. If anything, it’s the toll of a moment – a moment’s pause to be thankful we have not suffered so, to count star upon lucky star we were born in a place where such fates are uncommon.


It’s the cost of that moment to hope for better for all of us. That someday torture and sadism won’t be faced by those in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Who could torture or abuse another person the way these people have apparently been treated?


Someone who has devalued human life to the point of being beyond pity.


It is reasonable to feel sad for Joshua Boyle, the fool. It is good to hurt because someone has been so hurt. And it cheapens us all to heap scorn on someone who has already suffered.


Let’s not grow cold or beyond pity.


Doing so gains us nothing and costs us far too much.


Keith Bonnell is deputy editor of the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun.

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