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Taking a Step Back For Self-Reflection

The featured image above was taken by @HunRealIssues on Twitter

Sometimes people can be quick to judge an issue: the people at Fox cancelling Arrested Development; those same people green-lighting increasingly bad Seth MacFarlane shows; the people in Britain who voted to ‘Leave the EU’ and immediately regretted it when they saw Nigel Farage’s smiley face.

Sometimes, however, it’s good to take a step back from what you’re doing, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself: am I doing the right thing? If you’ve been around the Internet, or just social media really, you’ve likely seen an animated GIF doing the rounds; alternatively, you might’ve seen the show it’s from. The GIF depicts two SS Officers (played by Robert Webb & David Mitchell), one of whom has noticed the skull on his cap and asks the other: are we the bad guys?

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Later on in the same sketch the doubtful Officer compares it to the Allied symbols, to which the other says “of course they’re going say we’re the bad guys” to which the doubtful one replies: “but they didn’t get to design our uniforms.” And that’s the key; no one decides who you are, what you do, what you believe in except for you. While people may influence you or society may imprint certain ideals & thoughts on you, it’s your choice on whether you follow them or not.

In Ireland, due to a book written in the 1930s, social change mostly happens by referendum, so if you want to change something then you have to campaign for it. During these campaigns, however, people seem to lose track of themselves, and what they’re actually doing. The marriage referendum was, at the end of the day, just about grown adults wanting to be able to make their own choice on how to live their lives. It was not about religion, or about children, or about the sky falling: it was about two consenting adults choosing to make a legal & civil commitment to spend their lives together. Yet, that’s not what we got: we got posters about parenting that said that gay people (and, subsequently, single parents) weren’t proper parents, we got a holy oven glove telling us to vote no, we got local politicians telling us a symbol of love & equality was a political statement, and we got a mural removed.

Go through that list again. What’s the common theme? “Hate.” In my opinion, the common theme there is hate. I wouldn’t have been able to write that 18 months ago because of some bizarre idea that you can’t call homophobes what they (allegedly) are: hateful bigots. During the campaign I didn’t really have the time to sit back and think “Jaysus, I wonder do they actually look at what they’re doing?” I mean, even putting aside the referendum-losing posters, the almost-charmingly redundant oven gloves and the politician being a gom, you’re left with the mural. This mural is, indisputably, art; you might not agree with it or like it, but it’s art, it’s someone’s personal expression, it’s part of their soul on the canvas (or in this case, large wall). I can’t imagine anyone honestly, really, being alright with themselves for destroying art; for knowingly destroying part of someone’s soul, for tearing down something small that means so much to so many…but let me be fair for a moment, it was put up in the middle of a Referendum campaign with the intention to support a Yes vote.

That brings me to today. When I got into work today I checked various ‘news feeds’ to see if anything had happened: an historic house in Cork was set alight last night, something about the Healy-Raes and a mural is removed. This mural was painted on private property, was created with private funds but, due to a small number of complaints, it was removed. Why was it removed? Well it’s simple: it was pro-choice. An art group chose to have an artist paint this mural on the side of their own wall, yet it is taken down. Art, is again, taken down.

And it’s a very very different case than the last time, with the immediate context of “dude, we’re in the middle of a referendum” not applying as the government currently has no real plans of having a referendum on the Eighth Amendment. The fact that the ‘Pro-Life’ side has no sense of irony in denying the people of Ireland the choice to think for themselves on this issue would be hilarious if it weren’t so damaging. In fact, the ‘Pro-Life’ side seem to be, in my opinion, somehow worse at appealing to potential-voters than the posters & the oven gloves of the Marriage Referendum:

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On that, when the result to the Marriage Referendum came in & was confirmed, many people around me said “the next thing now is the Eighth” and I disagreed. Mainly because the next thing to do was Gender Recognition laws (which we’ve mostly sorted), but also because I didn’t think it was really the same, or at least it wasn’t an issue that everyone who voted for the marriage referendum would care for. If anything could prove me wrong it would be how the ‘campaign for a campaign’ has gone so far. The arguments boil down to the same thing: abortions are happening involving Irish people, quite like ‘gay’ marriage before it, and no amendment will stop that; the passing of the Marriage Equality referendum didn’t suddenly turn children gay the same way repealing the Eighth wont lead to ‘abortions on demand’ or any phrase people bandy about. It really only offers people one thing: choice. And really, if you’ll tear down art, tear down lives and remove the power of ‘choice’ from people: maybe it’s time to look at yourself and ask the question: am I the baddie?