Let's imagine for a second an Ireland where every child is born to loving parents, a fuss-free birth, suckled at the breast soon after. Months, no, years of skin to skin contact while awake and asleep. Carried by loving arms, strapped to a front or a back. Fed when hungry, kissed when sad, rocked when sleepy. Never knowing loneliness, fear, isolation, hunger.
Let's imagine how those perfect babies would grow into strong confident adults, treating each other with love and respect because that's all they've known.
So if one of those beautiful adults fell in love with another of a different race, or the same gender, how would the others respond? With love and acceptance.
Where's the threat? Where's the fear? Where's the self righteousness coming from?
Why should a gay couple's marriage have any bearing on a straight couple's marriage? Why should a person walking down the street have to suffer verbal attacks because of the colour of their skin? Why should someone's accent single them out for ridicule? Why does a complete stranger, living their life, have to inspire such a reaction in us?
We who grew up hungry, crying babies in our prams, alone in big rooms, left to wait until the clock struck before our bellies were fed, we know fear. We feared death, starvation.
We who were left crying in dark rooms to get ourselves to sleep, we know abandonment, isolation. We know fear. We feared monsters that were real, we were vulnerable.
We who were punished and ridiculed by authorities, made to parade in front of a class who were told of our transgressions, and forced into public apologies, we know ridicule.
We who were labelled with insults and slurs, bullied, threatened with belts and wooden spoons and made grovel for repentance, we know humiliation.
We who were force-fed food that we could not digest, who grew up with toys replacing human contact, caged in playpens and cried through cot bars, we know helplessness.
We who were used and abused by adults and other children with nobody to tell, we know the pain of self-loathing. We know shame.
We fear what we do not know, what we don't understand. We fear difference. We are bred to be codependent to the pack, safety in numbers, our lives at stake from day one. We are hardwired for stress and fear, because life taught us from day one that this is a game of survival of the fittest.
We can choose to stay in these chains, or break free. Stop a stranger and get to know them. Set an example for our children. Stop the racism, homophobia and intolerance that makes Ireland so hard for anyone who's not white, straight, middle class, college educated. Stop it right now, break the cycle, so it ends with us and our memories are just old horror stories, unthinkable to the next generation. Stop making our children pay for the pain we suffered.
God bless Panti, god bless any non-Irish person trying to make a living in this insular country, god bless any parent who doesn't succumb to the pressure to force independence on helpless babies, god bless us all that we may be freed from our fear to live whole joyful lives.
This post has been inspired by Panti's amazing speech about oppression in Ireland, and the Kenyan nun Agnes who I met out walking today.
Watch Panti here, if you haven't already.
Back with a bang.