Saturday, May 23, 2015

Singing Their Own Song in Ireland

The great flood of tears that we've cried
for our brothers and sisters who've died
over [fifteen hundred] years has washed away
our fears and strengthened our pride.
Now we turn back the tide.

We will no longer hear your commands,
we will slide your control from our lands;
redirect the flame of our anger and pain
and pity the shame for what you do in God's name.

– From "Sing Our Own Song"
by UB40 (with modified lyrics by Michael Bayly)

One of the most inspiring quotes I've heard in the wake of the overwhelming "Yes" vote for marriage equality in Ireland came from Leo Varadkar (pictured at left). Varadkar is a cabinet minister who came out as gay at the start of the government-led effort to amend Ireland’s conservative Catholic Constitution so as to extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples. He's quoted in an Associated Press news story as declaring the following.

We’re the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and do so by popular mandate. That makes us a beacon, a light to the rest of the world, of liberty and equality. So it’s a very proud day to be Irish. . . . People from the LGBT community in Ireland are a minority. But with our parents, our families, our friends, co-workers and colleagues, we’re a majority. For me it wasn’t just a referendum. It was more like a social revolution.

Amen, brother!

In celebration of yesterday's historic vote in Ireland I share Buffy Sainte-Marie's cover of UB40's "Sing Our Own Song."

Why this particular song? Well, let me explain . . .

The original version of "Sing Our Own Song" by UB40 was released in 1986 and reached #5 on the UK charts. Written as an anti-apartheid anthem, it was censored in South Africa by the ruling apartheid regime as it contained the ANC rallying cry of Amandla Awethu ("Power to us").

Buffy Sainte-Marie's version of the song features on her recently-released album, Power in the Blood, and celebrates indigenous resistance to colonial control. Her modified lyrics reference contemporary issues facing First Nation peoples, along with two of the movements that are responding in positive ways to these issues: Idle No More and Occupy.

Sings Buffy:

When the ancient drum rhythms ring,
the voice of our forefathers sings.
The will to live will beat on,
we will no longer be pawns
to greed and to war;
we will be Idle No More.
. . . When the ancient drum rhythms ring,
the voice of our grandmother sings.
Native America run,
we will no longer succumb
to oil and to ore.
We will be Idle No More.

Dance, dance for the right to be free,
we will rebuild our own society.
And occupy for the right to be free,
we will rebuild a just society.
And we will sing, we will sing,
we will sing our own song.

Now, here's why I consider "Sing Our Own Song" appropriate for celebrating yesterday's marriage equality victory in Ireland: The song's opening lyrics, which remain the same in both UB40's version and Buffy's version, are applicable to any group of people who resist and overcome the denial of their human and civil rights by a corrupt system of power and control. My modifying of these opening lyrics at the beginning of this post reflect my belief that in many ways, especially in relation to its understanding and "teachings" on gender and sexuality, the Roman Catholic hierarchy is one such corrupt and dysfunctional system, and has been for over fifteen hundred years.

For centuries, this feudal patriarchal system has exercised a destructive influence and an often abusive control over people, including the citizens of Ireland. Yet as yesterday's vote clearly shows, this is no longer the case. As one "Yes" campaigner notes, "Love has conquered all" . . . including the power of the Catholic hierarchy over people's sexual lives and decisions.

Catholic theologian Hans Küng has said the same thing in another, though no less helpful and liberating way:

The gospel of Jesus is stronger than the hierarchy.

And, yes, for many Catholics, the recent manifestation of this reality in Ireland is a cause for celebration.

. . . And we will stand for the right to be free,
and we will rebuild a just society.
And we will sing, we will sing,
we will sing our own song.

I conclude this post by sharing excerpts from two powerful pieces published in response to yesterday's historic marriage equality vote in Ireland. The first excerpt is from an Associated Press article by Shawn Pogatchnik.

Gay couples flocked to central Dublin to celebrate a "historic watershed" on Saturday as a large majority in the traditionally Catholic country voted to allow same-sex marriage, the culmination of a four-decade struggle for gay rights.

Waving rainbow flags, embracing and crying, two thousand people gathered to watch the official results in the courtyard of Dublin Castle after voters, young and old, accounted for one of the highest turnouts in a referendum for decades.

"The amount of people who came out to vote is just such an emotional thing for us," said Fred Schelbaum, 48, standing with his civil partner Feargal Scott, 43, who he said he intended to marry.

"Up to now a lot of gay people felt they were tolerated in Ireland. Now we know that it's much more than that."

The second excerpt is from "After This, No Exile," an op-ed by Bernárd Lynch, a gay Irish priest. In his op-ed, Lynch reflects on what he calls Ireland’s "declaration of independence" from "our colonial past and our colonial governance by the Roman Catholic Church."

Although still Catholic, the majority of the Irish people have voted that the freedom to love transcends their deepest religious beliefs. This marks a seismic shift in the mind of the nation. This consciousness serves not only the LGBT community but the entire people of Ireland in their long and arduous struggle for justice and co-equality among all their citizens.

As LGBT people, we had been robbed of our birthright: our absolute right to live and love as co-equals in our families, churches, towns, villages, and the country of our birth. Many of us left our homeland not for work and employment or for education – as the Irish have done for centuries by the millions – but simply because those of us who are LGBT were not welcome. Ireland up until now failed to honour its own Constitution in not “cherishing all her children equally.”

But, Friday, May 22, 2105, this changed forever. We have broken the shackles of our colonial past and our colonial governance by the Roman Catholic Church. We are free at last to live and love as we were born to be. For freedom – not happiness – is the precious stone. One cannot cling to happiness; it submits to no clinging. To be free, to live and love in your homeland, this is the most precious stone into which all others fade by comparison.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – May 21, 2015
The Same Premise
The Blood-Soaked Thread
Louis Crompton on the "Theological Assault" of the Ulpianic-Thomistic Conception of Natural Law
Catholic Hierarchy Can Overcome Fear of LGBT People
Threshold Musings
No Matter What
No Patriarchal Hierarchy, No Rigid Conformity
Tongues and Souls on Fire
Quote of the Day – July 24, 2012

Related Off-site Links:
Ireland "Changed Utterly" by Gay Marriage Vote – AFP via Yahoo! News (May 24, 2015).
Ireland Backs Gay Marriage in "Landslide" Victory – Amy R. Connolly (UPI, May 23, 2015).
Ireland Says "Yes" to Same-Sex Marriage in Historic Vote – Colm Coyne and Louise Roug (Mashable, May 23, 2015).
Irish Catholicism Supports Same-Sex Marriage! – Mark Silk (Religion News Service, May 23, 2015).
A Great Day for Irish Lay Catholics! And for Lay Catholics in El Salvador, Too! – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, May 23, 2015).
Amnesty International Welcomes Ireland's Historic Decision to Say "Yes" to Marriage Equality – Amnesty International (May 23, 2015).
Irish Anti-Gay Groups Gracious in Defeat – Bil Browning (The Bilerico Project, May 23, 2015).
Ireland Has Left "Tolerance" Far Behind – Fintan O'Toole (The Irish Times, May 23, 2015).
Dublin Archbishop: "The Church Needs to Do a Reality Check" – Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, May 23, 2015).
For One Irish Catholic Couple, Backing Gay Marriage Is a Matter of Family Values – Hanna Ingber (The New York Times, May 22, 2015).
Why One of the World's Most Catholic Countries Might Approve Gay Marriage – Mo Moulton (The Atlantic, May 21, 2015).

Image 1: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.
Image of Leo Varadkar: Photographer unknown.
Image of Buffy Sainte-Marie: Matt Barnes.
Image 4: A woman walks past a pro marriage equality mural in Dublin, Ireland. (Aidan Crawley/EPA)
Image of Bernárd Lynch: Photographer unknown.
Image 6: A double rainbow over Dublin on the day the referendum result was announced. (Karl via Facebook)

1 comment:

Mary Lynn Murphy said...

For a country that was for so long dominated by the Church at its worst, this is a beautiful assertion of independence.