This evening, I watched the Paddington film, and I absolutely adored it. It shows a stranger, an immigrant, coming here, being welcomed and then accepted for who he is and what he brings to the country. It shows a positive view of immigration that is sorely lacking in the media at the moment.
But what really brought a lump to my throat (and, I’ll admit, a tear to my eye) was what Paddington’s Aunt Lucy says to him just before she puts him on to a boat for London, near the start of the film:
Long ago, people in England sent their children by train with labels around their necks, so they could be taken care of by complete strangers in the countryside where it was safe. They will not have forgotten how to treat strangers.
“They will not have forgotten how to treat strangers.” This is my Britain! This is the Britain that I love; not the Britain of UKIP, brexit and division. I’m glad that a film can still be made that has that positive message of compassion, inclusion and acceptance. Messages like this are sorely needed at the moment and I’m so glad that I finally watched this. Bravo to Paul King and Studio Canal and I sincerely hope that the sequel doesn’t succumb to the zeitgeist of nationalism and insularity currently sweeping the western world.
One of the many things that has come out of the mass of WikiLeaks documents released recently is that the UK Government was apparently worried about Libyan reaction if Abdelbaset al-Megrahi died in jail. This led to a rekindling of interest in the case and the ‘revelation’ that al-Megrahi is still alive, leading to questions asked of the First Minister on the Today programme revisiting the decision. Surely I can’t be the only who finds this vulture-like constant waiting for al-Megrahi to die somewhat macabre?
Even if his conviction was completely sound (and there are many grounds for believing otherwise, although that’s neither here nor there for this post) I would still have supported his release from prison on compassionate grounds as the Scottish government did. I find it almost amusing that the fact he is still alive, despite his illness, is something that would have been lauded, maybe as a miracle, in any circumstance other than this one. Indeed, if one were feeling mischievous one could maybe argue that that his continuing health is a sign from God…
However, that’s not the point that I want to make. My point is this: that when Kenny MacAskill released al-Megrahi, he did so for the right reasons, on compassionate grounds for someone who all medical evidence suggested had only a few months left to live. The immediate flurry of protest is something that I despised because that key fact was forgotten or ignored – that he’s almost certainly going to die soon enough anyway, probably in a fairly painful and slow way. This decision was one that was made for all the right reasons and under a lot of pressure to the contrary, from both the media in this country and America, and the US Government. It’s one of the few times that I’ve felt any pride in my elected representatives, and it made me proud to have adopted Scotland, a nation that still understands and values compassion, as my home.
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