Monica, and being 22.

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I remember the Monica Lewinsky “scandal” very well. I say “scandal” because with 20 years in between then and now I’ve revised a lot of my thoughts about her, and Bill Clinton, and that time, and how I feel about it all. I was about 14 when it all kicked off and Monica seemed like a glamorous, go-getting woman in her 20s to me, someone who had her life together and was going places and knew what she wanted and how to get it.

Obviously the age gap hasn’t changed but now I feel much closer in age to her, which is the usual feeling you get as you grow older. I’ve been the new college graduate, unsure of myself and trying to figure out the working world and my place in it after the security of years spent in full-time education. I’ve navigated the world of older men in my workplace, and walked the tightrope of years spent being polite and never quite being sure if something is what you think it is or if its something you probably shouldn’t have to put up with.

I’ve been thinking about being 22 and being around people in power, and being around one of the most powerful people in the world. I’ve been thinking about sex, and what I regarded as sex, and what other people, mostly men at least twice my age, think about sex and consent and right and wrong. It’s uncomfortable to look back at 22 year old me, and think about 22 year old Monica, and the choices we made and the things which happened which weren’t really choices at all.

I’ve listened to  season 2 of Slow Burn and what other people said about Monica and how she navigated all that pressure and how, shamefully, she became the punchline of so many jokes about sex and power and men and what they do and who they do it to. I thought about my clothes when I was 22, and how I probably would have considered a navy dress from Gap as the ideal choice for working in an office.

I think about the working world now and my place in it and if things have changed and if a 22 year old in my workplace would be treated like Monica, regardless of how many people proclaim #metoo and talk about consent and condemn the actions of men in power who take what they want. I think about the current man in the White House, and the 22 year olds who work in that building, wearing the Gap dresses and figuring out their place in the world and I hope their world is better than mine was when I was 22 and when Monica was 22.

But I don’t know if it is, or if it can be, knowing what we know about everything that’s happened since Monica was 22.

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Monica, and being 22.

Home.

img_20190522_090404As you can see, this book is well loved. We’ve read it countless times, in two different homes. It’s a slightly fantastical book about the different places people call home. I could’t stop thinking about this morning, having listened to the proposal for “co-living” being defended and slated by various interested parties.

Our family has been in the very fortunate and privileged position of never having had to endure the stress of living in insecure housing. This shouldn’t feel like a privilege, but I know it is given the current state of the housing market and how people who rent are treated.

I cannot imagine the difficulties of living in insecure housing, the stress that puts on people and relationships and the knot in your stomach when you’re waiting to hear if a lease will be renewed, rent will be raised or what has been a home is now being turned into something else. Hearing the horror stories from people we know who are navigating the Dublin rental sector makes us feel beyond lucky and a little bit guilty, to be quite honest.

I don’t know what the answer is, beyond build more homes, all sorts of homes. And not ones which would confine people to a single room and make them share a kitchen with 40 other people.

Home.

Independence Day?

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Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Today was supposed to be the day the UK left the EU. Needless to say, that’s all still up in a heap, as my grandfather would say. When we heard the referendum result in June 2016, it was a massive, massive shock. I left work quite late, and feeling pretty sure that while the vote result would be narrow the UK would vote to stay.

Watching what’s supposed to be the home of parliamentary democracy slide into what can only be describe as a massive clusterfuck doesn’t make me happy in any way. I’m not particularly nationalist and I don’t have any innate desire for a united Ireland any time soon. I know the EU isn’t a perfect institution, but show me one that is.

I’m able to say with a fair degree of confidence that I, like most other people observing this chaos, have no idea what’s going to happen next.

Independence Day?

1972/1998

In 1998 I turned 17.

Six of the 14 people murdered on Bloody Sunday were 17.

Listening to the Morning Ireland coverage of Bloody Sunday was hard.

In 1998 the Good Friday Agreement was one of the highlights of the year, not just for me.

I wasn’t old enough to vote but I was old enough to get a copy of the referendum materials from the local library and read them and feel the excitement when the referendum passed.

Hearing today that one soldier will face charges because of his actions on Bloody Sunday I couldn’t help but think of 1998 and how things have been since then.

Peace is so very fragile. And is it even peace at all.

We studied the poems of Thomas Kinsella in school in 1998.

We never studied this one.

BUTCHER’S DOZEN:
A LESSON FOR THE OCTAVE OF WIDGERY

by Thomas Kinsella

I went with Anger at my heel
Through Bogside of the bitter zeal
– Jesus pity! – on a day
Of cold and drizzle and decay.
A month had passed. Yet there remained
A murder smell that stung and stained.
On flats and alleys-over all-
It hung; on battered roof and wall,
On wreck and rubbish scattered thick,
On sullen steps and pitted brick.
And when I came where thirteen died
It shrivelled up my heart. I sighed
And looked about that brutal place
Of rage and terror and disgrace.
Then my moistened lips grew dry.
I had heard an answering sigh!
There in a ghostly pool of blood
A crumpled phantom hugged the mud:
“Once there lived a hooligan.
A pig came up, and away he ran.
Here lies one in blood and bones,
Who lost his life for throwing stones.”

More voices rose. I turned and saw
Three corpses forming, red and raw,
From dirt and stone. Each upturned face
Stared unseeing from its place:
“Behind this barrier, blighters three,
We scrambled back and made to flee.
The guns cried Stop, and here lie we.”
Then from left and right they came,
More mangled corpses, bleeding, lame,
Holding their wounds. They chose their ground,
Ghost by ghost, without a sound,
And one stepped forward, soiled and white:
“A bomber I. I travelled light
– Four pounds of nails and gelignite
About my person, hid so well
They seemed to vanish where I fell.
When the bullet stopped my breath
A doctor sought the cause of death.
He upped my shirt, undid my fly,
Twice he moved my limbs awry,
And noticed nothing. By and by
A soldier, with his sharper eye,
Beheld the four elusive rockets
Stuffed in my coat and trouser pockets.
Yes, they must be strict with us,
Even in death so treacherous!”
He faded, and another said:
“We three met close when we were dead.
Into an armoured car they piled us
Where our mingled blood defiled us,
Certain, if not dead before,
To suffocate upon the floor.

Careful bullets in the back
Stopped our terrorist attack,
And so three dangerous lives are done
– Judged, condemned and shamed in one.”
That spectre faded in his turn.
A harsher stirred, and spoke in scorn:
“The shame is theirs, in word and deed,
Who prate of justice, practise greed,
And act in ignorant fury – then,
Officers and gentlemen,
Send to their Courts for the Most High
To tell us did we really die!
Does it need recourse to law
To tell ten thousand what they saw?
Law that lets them, caught red-handed,
Halt the game and leave it stranded,
Summon up a sworn inquiry
And dump their conscience in the diary.
During which hiatus, should
Their legal basis vanish, good,
The thing is rapidly arranged:
Where’s the law that can’t be changed?
The news is out. The troops were kind.
Impartial justice has to find
We’d be alive and well today
If we had let them have their way.
Yet England, even as you lie,
You give the facts that you deny.
Spread the lie with all your power
– All that’s left; it’s turning sour.
Friend and stranger, bride and brother,
Son and sister, father, mother,

All not blinded by your smoke,
Photographers who caught your stroke,
The priests that blessed our bodies, spoke
And wagged our blood in the world’s face.
The truth will out, to your disgrace.”
He flushed and faded. Pale and grim,
A joking spectre followed him:
“Take a bunch of stunted shoots,
A tangle of transplanted roots,
Ropes and rifles, feathered nests,
Some dried colonial interests,
A hard unnatural union grown
In a bed of blood and bone,
Tongue of serpent, gut of hog
Spiced with spleen of underdog.
Stir in, with oaths of loyalty,
Sectarian supremacy,
And heat, to make a proper botch,
In a bouillon of bitter Scotch.
Last, the choice ingredient: you.
Now, to crown your Irish stew,
Boil it over, make a mess.
A most imperial success!”
He capered weakly, racked with pain,
His dead hair plastered in the rain;
The group was silent once again.
It seemed the moment to explain
That sympathetic politicians
Say our violent traditions,
Backward looks and bitterness
Keep us in this dire distress.
We must forget, and look ahead,

Nurse the living, not the dead.
My words died out. A phantom said:
“Here lies one who breathed his last
Firmly reminded of the past.
A trooper did it, on one knee,
In tones of brute authority.”
That harsher spirit, who before
Had flushed with anger, spoke once more:
“Simple lessons cut most deep.
This lesson in our hearts we keep:
Persuasion, protest, arguments,
The milder forms of violence,
Earn nothing but polite neglect.
England, the way to your respect
Is via murderous force, it seems;
You push us to your own extremes.
You condescend to hear us speak
Only when we slap your cheek.
And yet we lack the last technique:
We rap for order with a gun,
The issues simplify to one
– Then your Democracy insists
You mustn’t talk with terrorists!
White and yellow, black and blue,
Have learnt their history from you:
Divide and ruin, muddle through,
Not principled, but politic.
– In strength, perfidious; weak, a trick
To make good men a trifle sick.
We speak in wounds. Behold this mess.
My curse upon your politesse.”

Another ghost stood forth, and wet
Dead lips that had not spoken yet:
“My curse on the cunning and the bland,
On gentlemen who loot a land
They do not care to understand;
Who keep the natives on their paws
With ready lash and rotten laws;
Then if the beasts erupt in rage
Give them a slightly larger cage
And, in scorn and fear combined,
Turn them against their own kind.
The game runs out of room at last,
A people rises from its past,
The going gets unduly tough
And you have (surely … ?) had enough.
The time has come to yield your place
With condescending show of grace
– An Empire-builder handing on.
We reap the ruin when you’ve gone,
All your errors heaped behind you:
Promises that do not bind you,
Hopes in conflict, cramped commissions,
Faiths exploited, and traditions.”
Bloody sputum filled his throat.
He stopped and coughed to clear it out,
And finished, with his eyes a-glow:
“You came, you saw, you conquered … So.
You gorged – and it was time to go.
Good riddance. We’d forget – released –
But for the rubbish of your feast,
The slops and scraps that fell to earth
And sprang to arms in dragon birth.

Sashed and bowler-hatted, glum
Apprentices of fife and drum,
High and dry, abandoned guards
Of dismal streets and empty yards,
Drilled at the codeword ‘True Religion’
To strut and mutter like a pigeon
‘Not An Inch – Up The Queen’;
Who use their walls like a latrine
For scribbled magic-at their call,
Straight from the nearest music-hall,
Pope and Devil intertwine,
Two cardboard kings appear, and join
In one more battle by the Boyne!
Who could love them? God above…”
“Yet pity is akin to love,”
The thirteenth corpse beside him said,
Smiling in its bloody head,
“And though there’s reason for alarm
In dourness and a lack of charm
Their cursed plight calls out for patience.
They, even they, with other nations
Have a place, if we can find it.
Love our changeling! Guard and mind it.
Doomed from birth, a cursed heir,
Theirs is the hardest lot to bear,
Yet not impossible, I swear,
If England would but clear the air
And brood at home on her disgrace
– Everything to its own place.
Face their walls of dole and fear
And be of reasonable cheer.

Good men every day inherit
Father’s foulness with the spirit,
Purge the filth and do not stir it.
Let them out! At least let in
A breath or two of oxygen,
So they may settle down for good
And mix themselves in the common blood.
We are what we are, and that
Is mongrel pure. What nation’s not
Where any stranger hung his hat
And seized a lover where she sat?”
He ceased and faded. Zephyr blew
And all the others faded too.
I stood like a ghost. My fingers strayed
Along the fatal barricade.
The gentle rainfall drifting down
Over Colmcille’s town
Could not refresh, only distil
In silent grief from hill to hill.

Maybe we should have.

1972/1998

Legisl8

davIt took 20 years to legislate on the referendums on the X Case. This week feels a little surreal. Less than seven months after we passed the 36th amendment legislation on abortion services is wending its way through the Oireachtas. It isn’t perfect legislation and it will exclude people who need to access abortion services when they have a diagnosis of a non-fatal foetal disability, those who don’t meet the 12 week deadline and those who face barriers to access like conscientious objections.

I’m torn on waiting to get the legislation to be more inclusive and seeing the need to pass the current Bill and keep working on service provision. It’s been hard to listen to some TDs talk about pregnant people, in particular the narrative I have heard and, for a long time, believed about abortion. There’s been some very nasty rhetoric that I don’t think I’ll forget.

I still think of Savita every day, and when I woke at 5.17 am today she was on my mind as I saw on my phone that the Dáil had passed the Bill to regulate the termination of pregnancy. My heart sinks when I think about whether we’ll have to hear about another Savita in order to get the law right. I hope we won’t, but the reality is that abortion services are going to be restricted in Ireland for the foreseeable future.

I do hope that come the new year people who need care won’t be getting their information from lampposts like the ones we’ve been used to seeing. I hope everyone who needs care can access it. I hope we don’t have more letters in the courts because we didn’t care for those who needed care. We’ve come a long way, but we know from bitter experience that this is not the end of the fight.

Legisl8

100 Years

Armistice day isn’t something I remember growing up but I do remember the first time I read about the Great War. It was in the book Rilla of Ingleside and I was quite confused by it the first time around. It wasn’t my favourite of the Green Gables series so I didn’t reread it as much as the others and I’m fairly certain I read it out of sequence to add to the puzzlement.

It’s not a typical book about war because it’s about the home front, even more so becasue it concentrates on the Canadian home front and the women left behind while their sons, brothers, husbands and sweethearts headed off to war in Europe. I’ve reread it a lot as an adult and it has been on my mind in recent days.

On my mind too is a book of war poetry my father gave me. I’m not a huge poetry lover but these are poems I return to, because the older I get the more I get from them.

I watched the memorial services on CNN and the BBC this morning. Two minutes silence isn’t very long really, considering what the silence is meant to stand for.

100 Years

Boo

Halloween is not one of my favourite times of the year but I’ve started to enjoy it a bit more because it means we’re getting a bit closer to my absolute favourite time of the year. This year is also a lot less scary in terms of reproductive rights than last year was, but the near constant stream of news from across the pond is certainly helping to fill the gap.

I’m planning on being very generous to the trick or treaters this year because the more I give away the less will be left in the house for me to stuff my face with. I need to drastically reduce the amount of sugar passing my lips.

Boo