Today is my birthday. Forty nine years living in a small place. A small, beautiful, bigoted, sectarian place.
What has that done to me? Who would I be if I’d moved long ago and far away?
The last two weeks have been instructive. A new political party, determinedly -if belatedly-neither ‘unionist’ nor ‘nationalist’, imploded very publicly even before the polls had closed. Dozens of candidates, new to politics, now have to consider if the harsh realities of politics are really for them, and if they can trust the men who brought them forward in the first place. I spent the days around the election glued to twitter, occasionally lifting my head to tell Spurs Fan the latest. The potential for good was great, but it all turned farcical. The one candidate who got elected is bright, enthusiastic, personable. I hope he sticks with it. A telling feature of our society was that there was no ramp for him, a wheelchair user, to get to the podium to make his acceptance speech.
Bad enough, but things have got worse.
Not for the first time in Northern Ireland, a so called Christian pastor preached intolerance and hatred. He harked back to days of Enoch Powell’s rivers of blood speech, praising Powell for his vision.Our First Minister, and several of his political party, have come out in support of that preacher. Peter Robinson, our head of government, said he wouldn’t trust Muslims. Apart from going to the shop for him and bringing back the right change.
Let us remember that this is a senior politician in the UK, in 2014.
Some of our other politicians have condemned this approach, and taken abuse because of that. One of our MLAs has spoken of how the rise in racist attacks has made her, a Chinese woman, fearful of her safety. Social media is full of people telling her to ‘go home’. Those of us promoting #IstandwithAnna will have no impact on the closed minds of our countryfolk.
I rage and rant. I grew up part of a demonised minority. I naively thought we were becoming a more equal society. I did not imagine our society would find new minorities to hate. I underestimated the need for ‘other’.
I’m discomfited. Just because it’s familiar doesn’t mean it’s right. There are more peace rallies to attend (still?) more ways of trying to get on with life. More time to focus on cake, and books and lovely things. (I even have a fab new purple handbag to show you…)
More time to wonder if I should stand up, shut up, or get out.