TODAY belongs to Mamoudou Gassama – and what a cheering thought that is.
The Malian migrant was hailed a hero after an astonishing act of bravery in Paris, when he hauled himself up a four-storey block of flats to rescue a child dangling from a balcony.
If you do nothing else on social media today, go on to YouTube and call up the footage. It really is something: Mr Gassama gets up the side of the building in about 30 seconds, pulling himself up on to one balcony and then another. He is almost with reach and hauls himself up one more level to save the child.
The footage of the rescue last Saturday was being widely shared on social media this morning and was then picked up by broadcasters and newspaper websites.
President Macron swiftly called Mr Gassama to the Elysee Palace, where he thanked the brave migrant and promised he would be made a naturalised citizen. He also gave him a medal for courage and said he would be offered a role with the fire service.
It is reported that Mr Gassama arrived in France last year, after taking the arduous and dangerous journey to Europe on a boat over the Mediterranean to Italy.
He told the president that he was walking through a street in the north of the city when he spotted a crowd gathered in front of a tower block. Seeing the child, he just acted on instinct, telling Mr Macron: “I just didn’t have time to think, I ran across the road to go and save him.”
Mr Gassama has been nicknamed the “Spiderman of the 18th”, a reference to the area of Paris when his daring deed occurred.
While it is possible to overdo these things, it is equally hard not to spot the symbolism in his story. If Mr Gassama hadn’t made it to France – or if the more right-wing elements in French society had sent him packing already – that child would have fallen and died.
Yes, you can overdo these things. But what a brilliant image this is: the brave migrant leaping to action while others stand by; leaping to action with such swiftness that he beat the firefighters to rescue that child.
If you ask me, we far too often see migrants and immigrants cast in a negative light. So the next time someone who should know better starts to chunter about “letting all those foreigners in the country”, just smile and mention Mr Gassama. And, yes, that was in France and not Britain, but split the difference anyway. You won’t ever find a better image of the good that migrants can bring to society.
Just imagine if Marine le Pen had been standing there; or indeed ‘our own dear Nigel Farage’ – and think of those apostrophes as oven-gloves. The outcome for that child would not have been nearly so bright. And the same, in fairness, would be true if I’d been wandering along that Paris street last Saturday.
So, yes, Mamoudou Gassama is a hero for the day and for a good sight longer than that, too.
Let’s just hope and pray the Daily Mail isn’t already scrabbling around in his past in the hope of finding something to do the man down.
Incidentally, the Daily Mail front page today splutters: “BBC ‘fritters’ your cash on Taylor Swift gig”. Oh, the BBC spends its money on all sorts of things that don’t bother me, from The One Show downwards. If they want to have the popular Taylor Swift in concert, what’s wrong with that? Nothing much, even though watching her wasn’t for me.