Arnaud Beltrame went miles further than he was required to go by the normal rules of life, or even the normal rules of duty and bravery
Last week saw one of the noblest acts of human courage in modern times. Yet it has been given far less attention than it should have been. We often hear it said of soldiers and others that they ‘gave their lives’ in battle. This is true in a way, though many actual soldiers will smile at the expression and mutter that they probably did not have much choice in the matter.
But the French police officer, Arnaud Beltrame, consciously and deliberately did give his life to save another. When the drug abuser, petty crook and jailbird Redouane Lakdim burst into the Super U supermarket at Trèbes, in southern France, he wasted no time in showing that he was capable of murder. He shot dead two people, and was said to have laughed as he killed them. Then he took several hostages.
He was persuaded to release all but one, a terrified woman.
Arnaud Beltrame calmly offered to change places with her. I believe that he knew as he did so that this might well cost him his life, and that by stepping forward he faced the strong possibility of a horrible and lonely death. Nobody ordered or asked him to do it. It would have been perfectly normal and acceptable for the police to have surrounded the mad killer and waited for him to give in, or kill himself, with the strong possibility that he would also kill his hostage.
Arnaud Beltrame went miles further than he was required to go by the normal rules of life, or even the normal rules of duty and bravery. The daily bargain, under which we behave decently to others and hope for the same in return, wasn’t enough for him. Most of us couldn’t have done what he did. Most of us will never be asked to.
But I very much doubt whether our civilisation would have reached the heights that it has reached if nobody had ever been ready to make such a sacrifice. I believe very deeply that Christian societies are different from non-Christian ones, precisely because all of us know that such selfless courage is the ideal of what we all should be. And I think that Lieutenant Colonel Beltrame did what he did because of the specifically Christian saying ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’. This Eastertide it is worth noting that these words are recorded as having been spoken by Christ, shortly before he (knowing what was coming) was dragged off to face a mocking show-trial, torture, beatings and a savage public death. For Arnaud Beltrame had come, quite recently, to embrace Christianity.
French Republican guards carry the flag-draped coffin of hero officer Arnaud Beltrame in Paris
In aggressively secular, hard-boiled France, this must have been difficult to do. Those of us who try to cling to the shreds of religion in the modern world feel increasingly besieged and hopelessly unfashionable.
My late brother Christopher was a militant atheist (but a good deal more thoughtful than most). He used to delight crowds of his supporters by demanding: ‘Name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer.’
In the end he tired of his own question and told me that he had found an answer. He thought that Lech Walesa, the lone and indomitable leader of Polish resistance to the might of communism, would never have dared take on such a huge and merciless enemy without his faith to sustain him. I suspect he would have felt the same about Arnaud Beltrame. And if this is true, and I think it is, is it time the rest of us wondered whether the West’s long mockery and dismissal of religion as childish and outmoded should now come to an end?
We need to know the difference between how things are, and how they ought to be, or what do we live and die for?
Muddled May is dragging us into a ‘backwards Brexit’
As someone who long wanted an independent Britain, I never cared all that much about the Single Market or the customs union. I see no signs that we will suddenly become a great exporting nation again if we launch out on our own – what have we got to sell after the massacre of industry in the 1980s? We’ll just import more stuff from different places.
But I think the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is an outrage. I don’t care if it takes longer to extradite terror suspects from other countries. British police officers should not be forced to arrest anyone here on the say-so of some foreign magistrate. Continental law is totally different from ours, and much less fair and more repressive. Nobody should be sent to face a foreign court without a full extradition hearing.
This is particularly important now, as Spain’s government outrageously pursues (and locks up) Catalan nationalist leaders for daring to call for independence. In our tradition that is political persecution, and the police and courts should have nothing to do with it. Yet in Scotland now, a former Catalan minister, Clara Ponsati, is being sought by the Spanish authorities on charges of ‘violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds’.
Tt looks to me as if Theresa May is hoping to keep us in the EAW. In her recent speech in Munich, she praised this nasty arrangement
Without the EAW, could this even come to court? With the EAW, it has to.
Yet it looks to me as if Theresa May is hoping to keep us in the EAW. In her recent speech in Munich, she praised this nasty arrangement. She boasted that she had ‘successfully made the case for the UK to opt back in’ to the EAW and other measures, after we had been given a unique chance to escape from them. She claimed this was clearly in our national interest. I don’t agree.
And if we end up still subject to the EAW, or something like it, and outside the Single Market, then we will have got our departure from the EU the wrong way round. It was the loss of our ancient liberties that was always the most important disadvantage of belonging to Brussels. If we cannot get them back, why leave?
The BBC has (of course) given great prominence to yet another anti-grammar school ‘report’ by academics. As usual it is based only on the tiny rump of surviving grammars almost all in well-off areas because spiteful, dogmatic Labour councils closed most of the grammars in poor districts. But the BBC and other Left-wing media never seem to notice the many reports from the Sutton Trust, which show that the better comprehensive schools are savagely biased against children from poor homes.
The Trust found that 91 of the 100 most socially selective schools in England and Wales were officially ‘comprehensive’. In theory, they are open to all, but in fact they are most open to the well-off through catchment areas and other more complex factors that also favour the rich and pushy. The only solution the Sutton Trust can come up with is allocating places by lottery, a mad idea. They should look at how well grammars once worked, when we had enough of them. In 1954, the Gurney-Dixon Report found that roughly 65 per cent of pupils at grammar schools in England and Wales came from working-class homes. How many modern ‘good’ comprehensives can claim anything like the same?
The one undoubtedly good thing about the new and gruelling film Unsane is that one of its villains is the ever-growing power of psychiatry and the pill industry that has taken it over.
Claire Foy plays an unhappy young woman who unwisely tells her woes to a counsellor and suddenly finds herself locked up in a mental institution, being dosed with pills which are clearly making her genuinely ill. On a much smaller scale, this is a terribly common story all over the Western world. I do wish people were more alert to it.
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