I don't count on everybody who reads my blog to share and invest in the stories that I'm finding upsetting and heart-wrenching, that make me obsessively trawl news and commentary sites and, sometimes, just sit with my head in my hands, at a loss.
And I know I see things often, fluttering past and think, I just can't go there today. Because to introduce those feelings into your day is a huge emotional commitment, a drain, a tax, a commitment to a state-of-mind and of-heart that's never satisfying or cathartic and will only lead to you coming home, feeling like you've been bled dry, a shell of yourself.
So, I appreciate people who are regularly willing to go there giving voice to difficult topics. And I'm happy to count them among my blog friends; people who blog and tweet things that aren't easy to blog and tweet. Genuine and justified, constructive anger really isn't an easy thing to embody; and it's not a state we crave in some hepped-up and shit-disturbing way. We go there because to leave something unsaid, to not go there, would feel all kinds of wrong.
There are often days I'm indignant about the number of people in my online world who never seem to give voice to a thing that really matters. And I find it hard to fathom that I can be so fraught while others only talk about flowers and gingham tablecloths and Peter Pan collars. But I also know that's just the way of it and there are bound to be times when those roles are reversed.
But today I can't just blog about some pretty thing when I've spent the entire day angry and upset, coming home to watch RTE news and simply cry. On my blog, I give voice to a lot of the beauty of Ireland, the language and landscape, the culture and the sea. Ireland is beautiful and I love it. But that's not the complete story.
For the sake of my own soul and sense of place and for the friends I have in both places, I let my mind linger on the more beautiful and bathetic sides of my island. But, of course, it's not all bucolic landscape and literature and craic. It's also a country corrupt and bloated with politics and with religion, and - worst of all - politics informed by religion.
I could go on about the church scandals, the abuse cases, the punch-drunk Celtic Tiger economy, Northern Ireland, the corruption tribunals over land and banks and various leaders. But right now, the one that's front of mind is abortion. We just emerged from a US election where the threat to women's rights was a key issue. The threatened outcome in the US, the outcome so many reacted against, is today's reality in Ireland. The story of Savita Halappanavar:
"Savita Halappanavar should still be alive. Her husband should not be a widower. When she was admitted to hospital on 21 October suffering a miscarriage, and it was found that there was no chance of the baby surviving, the staff of University Hospital Galway should have acted at once to protect her life by performing an abortion. Instead, her husband says that her requests for a termination were refused on the grounds that a foetal heartbeat was present. “The consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country,” Praveen Halappanavar told the Irish Times." - Sarah Ditum / New Statesman
For brevity's sake, I'll assume most of you have read one or more of these stories. But, if you haven't:
Una Mullally has compiled a comprehensive list of all the coverage of Savita Halappanavar.
As Alex Massie writes, "Seven governments have had the chance to legislate; seven governments have ducked the issue." We simply have to stop ducking this issue. And not because we're afraid right now of looking bad in the eyes of the world (though we do) and not because of some malignant form of shame (which we might well feel). But because there's a deeper ethical obligation to do better than this. And to stop lying to ourselves, about our piousness and shame and the hypocrisy of exporting abortions to the UK. To buck up and have an honest adult conversation about those things we and our politicians find so awkward; topics like abuse and sex and rape and our bodies. It's time to grow up.
You might think these kinds of events make me feel glad to be in Canada. You'd be wrong. It's at times like this that I feel almost amputated. Sure, part of me is happy to be removed from something so wrong. But a bigger part of me really wants to be outside Leinster House and to lobby my TD to legislate for X. I feel pretty powerless when things like this happen and I'm so removed from Ireland. Being in Canada doesn't mean I can just switch off my nationality and be smug about where I am. Too many people I love live there. And I myself care deeply about my country... even though on days like this, that love is tainted with shame.