Belfast Telegraph

Think about the freedoms you enjoy, then vote for respect for everyone

By Nuala McKeever

If you have legs, I recommend that this week, before you go and vote, please take a walk outside, go and find a tree or some grass or some flowers or some water and just stand and look at the beauty of what nature gives us for free. Then go home and go into your kitchen.

Turn on your tap and appreciate the fact that clean water flows out straight away. Turn on the hot tap, if you have one, and appreciate that hot water flows out straight away.

Open your cupboards and appreciate how much food you have. Go into your bedroom and appreciate the bed you have, with the warm soft quilt, or blankets on top.

Sit quietly and bring to mind the people you know and love who are alive and healthy and able to make choices about their lives, able to decide where and how to live and work, able to express their opinions freely without fear of being attacked, imprisoned, tortured, or executed by the government.

Look at your own life and bring to mind all the times you've been allowed to be yourself. Think of how free you are to go about your life without restrictions. Think of all the things you normally just take for granted.

Then go and vote. And before you vote, remember what happened in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. If you need to refresh your memory, go onto one of your computers and look up the history of how a holocaust of six million people was allowed to happen. Remind yourself of the well-known quotation by pastor Martin Niemoller: "First they came for the socialists and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist.

"Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist.

"Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.

"Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me."

And try on a local, currently relevant version, which might go something like this:

First they came for the Romanians and I did not speak out, because I was not Romanian.

Then they came for the Polish and the Africans in the next street and I did not speak out, because I was not Polish, or African.

Then they came for the raped, pregnant young women and I did not speak out, because I was not a raped, pregnant young woman.

Then they came for the gay men and women and I did not speak out, because I was not gay.

Then they came for me ... It seems to me that Northern Ireland is in a very dark place nowadays.

When our political leaders can make the sort of statements Peter Robinson made on The View about homosexuality being criminalised again, saying gay people would have to follow the law, instead of being a statesman and saying that his own private belief is one thing, but he is tasked to uphold the rights of all people, then I wonder "Is this what it was like in Nazi Germany?"

Bit by bit, our political and cultural conversation here is being poisoned by hatred and fear. Our media is not only reporting, but at times, stirring up and sustaining a news agenda that focuses on and sanctions the misogynist, racist, homophobic attitudes of the extreme Right who call themselves "Christian" and yet behave in the most un-Christian manner imaginable.

We reap what we sow. Sow some love. Vote for respect and tolerance this Thursday.

Hallelujah, I’m in tune with the Earth

What a relief when you discover you’re not going mad.

For a long time, I used to hear a low-level humming sound.

At times, it was intriguing, at other times it was irritating to the point where it almost made me cry with frustration — usually at night, when it kept me awake.

Now I read that the Earth hums and some people can hear this hum.

Hallelujah! It’s real. It’s not my ears, it’s not my imagination, it’s not made up.

It comes in short bursts, then stops, then starts again.

Like party political broadcasts, only less annoying.

Sandi’s political plans show vision

Comedian and stalwart of Radio 4’s The News Quiz, Sandi Toksvig, has resigned to set up a new political party.

It’s no joke. The Women’s Equality Party will stand at the next General Election in 2020. Ironically, that’s the shorthand for perfect vision, 20-20.

Obviously, that’s something UK society still lacks, since if we had good vision, we wouldn’t need a party to campaign for decent, fair treatment of half the population. Northern Ireland’s even worse. You wouldn’t find respect for women even with a magnifying glass in some of our parties.

Not so much 20-20 as short-sighted and making a spectacle of themselves.

Belfast Telegraph


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