Love and Shame in the Wake of Savita


I love my city. It’s easy to love. In a pub in Glasgow the other day I heard people around a pool table mocking how much Corkonians love our city. Loving Cork is a tired old stereotype that just so happens to be true. There’s a lot to love.

My city is walking by the river on a chilly day eating takeaway gourmet sausage sandwiches from the English Market. It’s warm cafes and pubs you can spend all day in. It’s meeting people you know every time you walk down the street. It’s friendliness and openness. It’s laid-back, relaxed, shure it’ll be grand. My city is where I came out and was nurtured (and, er, some other things too!) by a wonderful queer community. My city is organic, free-range and fair-trade. It’s beardy lefties and bringing your kids and dogs along to the protest. My city is a wonderful sense of independence, knowing we’re as good as anyone and probably better, and doing it yourself.

I love my city. I am deeply ashamed of my country.

A lot of non-Irish blogs and other media have been talking about Savita this week. Of course they have! And to start off, I was aghast at how they talked about Ireland. As if we’re an ignorant, backward, priest-ridden society. As if we’re a nation of fundamentalists. I wanted to shout at them that we’re not like that. We’re a secular society! Many of us call ourselves Catholics, but we don’t hang off a bishop’s every word. We don’t. I wanted to say that we’re a secular society chipping away at a decades-old institutional veneer of religiosity. I wanted to share how easy it is to be irreligious, atheist or humanist as an adult in Ireland. I wanted to talk about how I’ve never had to come out as atheist like so many Americans I hear about. I’ve never worried about being shunned or rejected because of my lack of belief. I wanted to shout that we’re so, so far from stereotypes of Irishness.

But none of that matters.

A candle-lit vigil for Savita, her name in candles on the ground.

We’re not a secular society chipping away at a decades-old institutional veneer of religiosity. Not any more. We’re a society rotten to the core with the abject power and reach of the Catholic Church, with an easy, shallow sheen of secularism. We’re secular when it’s easy. As a childless adult, an Irish citizen without major health issues who moves in urban, educated circles, it’s easy. I don’t have to send a child to a Catholic school. I don’t have to stay in a hospital. I live easily.

Many of us live easily. And one of the things about being Irish is that we figure that if it ain’t broke, there’s no point worrying about it. We live our easy lives and we decide that it’ll be grand. Sure, abortion is illegal here. But can’t you get over to the UK for half nothing with Ryanair? Not a bother like.

Our complacency gave us an easy life. And now our complacency has killed.

I love my city. I love my country too, but as a Corkonian I’ve got to say that I love my city more. I love my city and my country, and I am deeply ashamed of them. My sweet, easygoing city is part of a country that sat for decades on a ruling that would have prevented Savita Halappanavar’s death. Because underneath our laid-back exterior is a cowardly and judgemental core.

Protester holding a sign with the word "shame"

We should be ashamed. We need to be ashamed. We need to feel our shame, take it and turn it into rage. We need to stand before Savita Halappanavar’s husband, parents, friends and family and tell them that we were wrong. We need to beg them for the mercy that we did not show their wife and daughter.

And then we need to stand up and take responsibility.

The world thinks that Ireland is a fundamentalist, backward country. They think that we would rather follow the bishops than our own consciences. They think that we don’t care about the lives of women. They are right.

We need to be ashamed, and then we need to change this. We need to change it NOW. Not next year. Now. Because in our hospitals today there are women suffering through miscarriages. There are women at risk of septicaemia. If we are to call ourselves a civilised country, we act now. We legislate for X, and we make that legislation rock-solid. And today, tomorrow, next year, ten years and a hundred years from now, when we talk about abortion we do not listen to a Church that would have women die. We listen to Savita’s pain, to the grief of her loved ones, to our deep and abiding sense of shame, and we do the right thing.

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3 thoughts on “Love and Shame in the Wake of Savita

  1. Pingback: Link Love (04/12/2012) « Becky's Kaleidoscope

  2. Pingback: The Abortion Rights Campaign 10 Days of Action | Consider the Tea Cosy

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