Why I can forgive the actions of the young Tim Shadbolt

Shadbolt with a group of protesters outside the Auckland Town Hall in 1973. (Sourced: Max Oettli, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 8-Jul-13, retrieved from http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/39842/a-demonstration-1973)

I wrote an article yesterday about Sir Tim Shadbolt and one commenter, noted Cam’s article from May 25th 2008 where Cam said

“ Last night on TV, Tim Shadbolt “proudly” walking with the protesters and police at Bastion Point.

This wanker was also the same “proud” protester that spat in the face of my mate as he stood on parade.

My mate though said that he fought in Vietnam so that wankers like Tim Shadbolt can spit in the faces of soldiers. Nevertheless in any culture spitting is the ultimate in insults.”

Well, back in my youth, I did and said things for which I am not proud.

Oh, I did the usual things as any kid or teenager did; but one thing I did has haunted me throughout my adult life and it is something I am thoroughly ashamed of.

When the commenter cited Cam saying “that Tim Shadbolt spat in the face of Kiwi soldiers as they returned home from the Vietnam war. To me, doing a funny cheese ad doesn’t make up for that” it hit a real raw nerve with me.

When I was much younger, I was in a pub with my husband, brother and some of my brother’s friends. One of the friends was a young soldier, recently returned from Vietnam. It was about 1975.

In those days, I was a passionate left-leaning, anti-war, anti-establishment lass with a big heart and an even bigger mouth.

This young man, out on one of his first social engagements since quitting his service, was not expecting to be under fire from one of those seated at his table.

I said to him “ What was it like to murder innocent women and children? Did that make you feel good? “

He looked at me and very quietly said “ It felt bloody awful and I will probably never get over it. “

I to this day, cannot believe that I uttered those words. I tried to feel smug and self righteous… to no avail. While the other members of the gathering looked embarrassed and felt his pain, I could only sit back with arms crossed as though I had scored a point.

I spat in his face, not literally, but figuratively.

What a callous person I was back then. What an idealist. What a foolish, immature and unkind thing not only to say, but also to think.

The number of times over the years I have remembered that moment is a number too big to contemplate. My shame has never left me.

So perhaps I can cut some slack for the folly of youth and, with humility, hope that the young man has long since forgotten my cruelty. Yet I have not and never will.

Neither should I.

So perhaps that is why I can forgive the actions of the young Tim Shadbolt, because he, no doubt like me, has grown wiser with age and less foolish.

I cannot comment for Sir Tim, but I can comment for myself. I regret those words and the beliefs that led me to use them.

I have grown up, grown wiser and grown older.

I cannot turn back time and neither can Tim Shadbolt. But I suspect that, like me, he wishes he could.