The Dreamers

The first time I went to New York was on a family trip when I was 21 years old and the city was still digging through the remains of the World Trade Center. On a sunny, freezing cold day we got a ferry to Ellis Island and did a tour. The five of us had a chance to crowd around a computer and search the database. Both my parents knew many young people from their respective home towns had likely passed through immigration in the building we sat in, and sure enough just searching through lists using a couple of search terms threw up familiar names, sometimes a little misspelled (probably due to accents and things getting lost in translation during what must have been a fairly noisy, busy process), and always young. They were 16, 17, 18 or 19 years of age, setting off I suppose with dreams and hopes of their own. They can’t have been that different to my and my siblings who were of similar ages and had and still have dreams of our own.

In 2011, we went to America on honeymoon and spent the last few days in New York. I felt a real urge to visit Ellis Island again so on a sunny, warm day we got a ferry there and did another tour. This time, it was me and my brand new husband sharing a computer and we did similar searches and once again I was wondering why I was so moved by simple lists of names, ages and places of birth and why I would feel a connection to those people and hoped life had turned out ok for them.

My husband is an immigrant. He wasn’t born in Ireland, but he grew up here. Thanks to a strange twist of fate his parents came back here and so he has dual citizenship and, thanks to various legal immigration and citizenship arrangements so do I. We’re white, we’ve both got transferrable skills and we’d both qualify under the proposed new immigration rating system to go back to New York once more and work there. We’re not really dreaming about that right now, for many reasons. Your dreams change over time – be they the dreams of a 17 year old boy still queasy from weeks spent on a rocky ship seeing a city for the first time or a couple who aren’t worried about impressing immigration officials standing in a huge hall.

I don’t know how my husband or I would cope if he was sent ‘back’ to his country of birth. His parents did everything above board, but that’s just the luck of the draw. They had dreams when they left to make a life somewhere else and have children and work and build something new. My husband shouldn’t have to live with an immigration based sword of Damocles hanging over him and, thankfully, he doesn’t and nor do I. But when I organised our files yesterday and sorted through paperwork from different countries letting us know who we are and what we can do and, in essence, what a country thinks of us, I began to think about the Dreamers in New York, and everywhere else in America.

I think about them, and the lists of those young people we saw on a computer screen in Ellis Island, and the hopes and dreams they have and had. And I think of the poem every Irish school kid has to analyse for exams rendering it devoid of meaning until you can read it for its own sake, WB Yeats’ The Cloths of Heaven. And I hope that those in the US who can do something about the Dreamers remember to tread softly, because they are treading on people’s dreams.

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The Dreamers

Over Load

I’ve noticed this week that since this time last year I’ve been in a haze of news cycles, updates, media updates, scandals, crises, more scandals, more updates……

Human beings can’t have been designed with this in mind. My mind wasn’t, and it’s not good for me to be in this whirling mess of news all day every day.

Even the word ‘news’ is something I’ve been thinking about. I work with words in my job every single day, and while one of the perks is that you come across odd and unusual words you’d never hear otherwise (like captious) one of the downsides is that sometimes words start to lose their meaning a little. There is an appearance of newness about every day, but its starting to feel like Groundhog Day.

I’ve been obsessed with the news, but the past 12 months have been a new level of obsession. I need to dial it back a bit. There’s only so much new one person is designed to deal with.

Over Load

I Started Doing More Housework, More Baking

Thankfully, unlike Offred I haven’t been let go from my job, even though that used to be something that really happened to women like me when they got married. I do, however, have more time in the evenings thanks to a nice summer schedule.

I’m not living under the same level of oppression and control as Offred, but I am living under the mild to moderate to severe level of terror I’ve felt since last November which must feel a little similar, maybe? I’m not a state asset for breeding (well, the eighth amendment can make you wonder a bit) nor I am separated from my husband and forced into sex with a stranger.

But I have started doing more housework, more baking. I’ve retreated home more and I think I’m trying to shield myself from the world more because it is very difficult to escape from the 24 hour news cycle I seem to have become enveloped by for over a year now.

I really hope this is all I have in common with Offred. I can live with more housework and baking, and the hope that some people will finally do the right thing.

I Started Doing More Housework, More Baking

Threads, Or How I Learned to Start Worrying and Fear the Bomb.

This week, I’ve been thinking about Threads a lot. It’s a film that I watched on YouTube, having seen some clips of it on a BBC documentary. I’m pretty easily scared, and this is the scariest film I’ve ever seen. It shows you, in slow and excruciating detail, just how scary real life can and will get in the aftermath of a thermonuclear conflict. There will be no rescuers saving the day. There will be no winner. There will be no afterwards.

I have no idea if the story about Ronald Reagan is true, namely that having seen Threads he reassessed nuclear policy. What’s really scary right now is knowing that the current president probably wouldn’t be swayed at all by watching it. We know he’s incurious and has shown no greater inclination towards curiosity, so I’m probably correct in my thinking that watching Threads won’t counteract his fire and fury approach to nuclear policy.

Threads is scary because it presents nuclear war as people will experience it. There is nothing scarier than knowing what you’re watching could be real. The people who suffer in Threads are mothers, fathers, children, delivery people, civil servants – all ‘normal’ people, doing ‘normal’ things. They are us. They are the North Koreans.

Threads, Or How I Learned to Start Worrying and Fear the Bomb.

In Ireland, You Too Can Have the Gilead Experience.

We watched the first episode of The Handmaid’s Tale this week, and it was very difficult not to compare and contrast Gilead with Ireland. In Ireland, a pregnant woman cannot have an abortion until her life is at risk. She can be imprisoned for 14 years if she attempts to procure an abortion. She has virtually no autonomy during pregnancy and if the State so desires, she can be taken to court during pregnancy and full legal representation granted to her foetus. She is essentially treated as a handmaid, all because of hysteria fuelled by Roe v. Wade.

Of course, there had always been a don’t ask, don’t tell policy around women, their wombs and their choices. Rich women like me could get the name of an accommodating doctor through a friend and pay a large sum for a safe D&C. Poor women got the name of a local woman who was known to provide the required services and took their chances on their kitchen tables. And women, after 1983, continued making their trips to the UK for medical services. ‘Going to England’ was a nod and a wink to the notion that Ireland didn’t really think too deeply about what women wanted, but if they really wanted it no one would stop them.

Then suddenly there was a court case, wherein the State took a 14 year old child, pregnant following rape, to the High Court of our land, a place of wigs and polished wood that smells of bureaucracy and judgment. The State didn’t want this girl to have an abortion. The State wanted to force her to bear the child of her rapist. The Supreme Court decided no, a suicidal child shouldn’t have to bear the child of the man who raped her, the State should allow her to have an abortion because her life was at risk.

And a lot of people huffed and puffed and thought it was indeed a bit mad that women and children should be brought to court if they wanted abortions, and were probably a bit annoyed that the girl didn’t just have her abortion in England and maybe thought secretly her parents shouldn’t have caused a fuss by asking a policeman if the foetal remains could be used as evidence. Making a show of us, they said.

So we huffed and puffed a bit more and the State held another referendum, on three proposed constitutional amendments. One was about not preventing women from travelling, one was on the right to information on abortion. And the third wanted to stop children like Ms X, who’s life was at risk from suicide, from being able to get abortions if they couldn’t slink off elsewhere.

The third didn’t pass. But for 21 years, the State did nothing about legislating for abortion in those cases where children and women are at risk of death from suicide and are allowed to have abortions here. In 2013, the Government got around to it and passed a law regulating the grounds on which women and children can have abortions.

And we heard about floodgates and loving both and all the usual guff we’ve heard for the past three decades and before because to be perfectly bloody honest about it Ireland hasn’t trusted women since the foundation of the State and didn’t intend to start now. Ireland forces any pregnant women or children who can’t travel outside the state to stay pregnant, and that’s where we are unless you’re at risk of dying.

So if you’re looking for somewhere that makes you feel like a handmaid, get pregnant, come to Ireland and get the real Gilead Experience. You might not get any scans during pregnancy, because what can you do if there’s a problem anyway? You might object to a nurse breaking your waters, but she knows best and you have no say. You might be taken to court by the State and given no choice in the delivery of your baby, but sure we love both.

Don’t we?

In Ireland, You Too Can Have the Gilead Experience.

“Forget the myths the media’s created about the White House. The truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.”

From All The President’s Men. I feel like these words are truer than ever this week. I don’t think humans are designed for so much news, and news of such intensity, in such a short time. I don’t know where this is going, and I am 100% certain it will be a bumpy ride, but I think I need to dig out my copy of All The President’s Men this weekend.

“Forget the myths the media’s created about the White House. The truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.”

What’s In A Name?

The decision to relocate a national maternity hospital to another, more medically appropriate site, seems logical and positive. Until you realise just what this will involve. The state is, in effect, giving a €300 million asset to a private organisation that’s loyal to another state and has proven itself to be completely and utterly amoral, to have failed women and children, to have manipulated the needy through indoctrination and has managed to convince generations of people that if it wasn’t for it, we somehow wouldn’t have all the normal services of most western democracies.

This is supposed to be a national maternity hospital. If we’re allowing this decision to move towards completion, we are getting a national maternity hospital in name only. I don’t believe any promises made by any religious order or Minister any more, because the best way to predict what will happen in the future is to look at the past. And in the past, both religious orders and Ministers have lied, or told mistruths, or have used whatever weasel words they need to for social or political expediency.

Religious bodies have used the state’s education system to convince generations upon generations that it is completely normal and positive for essential services to be controlled and delivered by, but not paid for, private foreign entities. We have given them billions. They have abused our people, they have stolen babies and enslaved women, they have indoctrinated children, they have covered up child rape, they have created trusts to hide and retain assets and they have shown us not one example of why they should be handed ever greater sums of state money.

It is not normal for a state to hand over millions to private foreign entities that have an appalling track record. It is not normal for us to be expected to accept this is normal. It is not normal for women who are supposed to be getting care in a national maternity hospital to have to ask about the religious limits that they might be subjected to.

A body which styles itself the Sisters of Charity should not and cannot be handed our national maternity hospital.

What’s In A Name?