September 29, 2012


Leo Traynor is my hero of Yom Kippur : On this day of repentance, Traynor's treatment of his stupid and cruel troll is a moving reminder of God's willingness to forgive (Giles Fraser,  26 September 2012, The Guardian)

Today is Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement. The holiest of Jewish festivals, it is a time for repentance, for "teshuva". At the end of the day the judgment of God is entered in the book of life. This is the last chance to amend what is written. As the congregation stands before the open ark containing the Torah scrolls, it is a final opportunity to say sorry and to put things right. When the shofar, the ram's horn, blows at the end of the day, the book of life will close and one's sins will be recorded forever.

Repentance and forgiveness are at the heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Which is why Leo Traynor's recent blogpost offers such a perfect and intensely moving reflection on the practicalities of forgiveness.

It all began with Traynor being hounded off Twitter after receiving sustained and poisonous abuse... [...]

Eventually he acted for himself. He found an IT whizz who tracked down the IP address of his tormentor and then traced it back to a house address - the address of a friend of his. The troll was his friend's son.

Instead of calling in the police, Traynor arranged a meeting with the 17-year-old and his parents. He bought tea and chocolate chip cookies. And then opened a file containing the evidence. Here was the book of life. Traynor's account of what happened next is brief - the sort of profound brevity that allows the events themselves to carry the weight of significance.

"Why?" asked Traynor. The troll began to cry. "I don't know, I don't know. I'm sorry. It was like a game thing." A bloody game thing. Then Traynor gave a short speech that is the perfect embodiment of Yom Kippur.

"Look at me. I'm a middle-aged man with a limp and a wheeze and a son and a wife that I love. I'm not just a little avatar of an eye. You're better than this. You have a name of your own. Be proud of it. Don't hide it again and I wont ruin it if you play ball with your parents. Now shake hands."

The troll said sorry. "Thanks for giving me a break, dude."

That was it. For those of us who are people of faith, one could almost have heard the ram's horn giving its final blast. A stupid and cruel young man was saved not just from the police but also from the final judgment of God.

When one of our pseudonymous trolls committed suicide it just drove home the point that such behavior is a function of a disturbed mind.  We obviously lack the Lord's capacity to forgive, but we do excuse.

But the use of anonymity does generally represent a disregard for the meaning of free speech.  You're entitled to say whatever you choose to, so long as you're willing to accept responsibility for it.  If you aren't, you probably oughtn't be saying it.

Posted by at September 29, 2012 10:15 AM

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