‘I’m a believer of free speech.’

‘I don’t judge.’ 

‘People should be allowed to express their opinions freely…’

This is the current soundtrack to today’s society. It’s quite a beautiful tune, truth be told. To survive the marathon that often characterises our daily existence in this rat-race-paced city, we need this sympathetic chorus. Have we not enough dilemmas, doubts and disputes without the addition of the judgmental, the joyless and the jaded? No one needs an oppressive audience.

However, there’s no point in enjoying a melody when the backing instruments are off. From the hub of Trinity’s courtyards to fashionable suburban philosophy, to be thought of as ‘liberal’ has become a most desirable label. I’ve often pondered exactly what it means. It seems to have become a very attractive and somewhat boho kind of concept. One can picture themselves exuding an artsy, devil-may-care aura while partaking in a fiery exchange in the Metafizz with other champagne communists and socialists, uttering with dramatic conviction their wars against social injustice. Wonderful, no?

When we hear the word ‘equality’ or ‘tolerance’ we think of those who fan-girl over the people’s entitlement to same-sex marriage, abortion rights and religious, racial and gender equality. We think of these passionate people (and we all know at least one) as our cultural forerunners, our pioneers. But are they?

If one were to look up the definition of ‘liberal’ one would find it to mean, ‘concerned with broadening a person’s general knowledge and experience.’ A more concise definition actually says, ‘willingness to respect or accept behaviour different to one’s own.’ Is this truly the case  with our brave trendsetters? Is it only those who are part of the LGBT community, feminists, and Repeal the Eighth Campaign that obtain our admiration for their maverick-like mentality? Might we have neglected to acknowledge those we consider the Mean Between or ‘the other’? Whether weird, wonderful or painstakingly ordinary, most of us were gifted with the ability to form opinions, I hope.

Those who consider themselves liberal or left are in fact just another side of social culture that doesn’t branch out to all the nooks and crannies as implied. The left-wing claims to be concerned with favouring liberty and social equality but has it become, instead, a contest of who can be the first at modernity’s frontier?

If we roll back to March and April of 2015, Ireland was on the cusp of the decision on the same-sex marriage referendum. There was much tension between the two sides of the campaign if the debates on the Late Late show and Prime Time were anything to go by. However, the spokespersons for each side had conducted their arguments with good grace and well articulated points. The effects of this debate, on the other hand, had a vicious backlash amongst the Irish public.

‘No’ faction activists were daubed as ‘homophobic bigots’ and ‘Nazis’ and pelted with eggs during their marches. The reason behind such marches are still, in fact, a mystery to me. However, as a centrist I know that I don’t, in fact, have to understand the ‘No’ faction’s orientation. I accept it as another facet of society’s labyrinth. A group who had intended to vote ‘no’ were, according to an investigation within the Garda Representative Association, intimidated to make such a move for fear of losing their jobs. Marian Keyes, the best-selling Irish author, also hastily deleted her biting tweet directed at Anti same-sex marriage voters and the Roscommon region. 

“Tip?! I’ll give you a tip! Move to Roscommon/South Leitrim and pal around with your own kind! #OfHateFilledBigots.”

Does this smack of the equality people voted for?

Shall we plead the fifth for now?

With Repeal the Eighth, there’s another popular socio-political campaign currently unearthing all sorts of surreal catholic quirks embedded in our judicial system and our psyches. You can pluck your fingernails from your chair, I’m not about to go for hop about the campaign or the morals of the people supporting it. In that, I must confess to an astonishing lack of interest. My interest lies in the hostility exuded by its advocates. They know they have a wonderfully large chance of repealing this amendment and some of the stories we’ve heard are dark. If so convinced of the campaign’s righteousness and their own knowledge of the once-oppressive Catholic doctrine, why must those in favour display their feral qualities to the other side?

Visit the LoveBoth Project on Facebook and perhaps you’ll see what I mean. The pure disgust at this page is almost tangible. Why so? Does human life evoke such disgust? It is understandable, of course, why some view the pro-life side as backward and contrary to progress. Branding pro-lifers as ‘Warriors of Christ,’ however, is confusing and problematic. This is due to the fact it was not, in the first place, Christ that had saddled married Irish women with the expectation of aspiring to nothing but broodmares and also even more so in the case of single women, in whom the Catholic Church had instilled a deep-seated fear of young single motherhood. Abortion being the appropriate answer, especially as their illegitimate child would forever be an outcast with no correct place in heaven.

Single or young motherhood, of course, deserving to be seen as a choice rather than an obligation, should not at the same time, be disenfranchised either by the animosity of some. To do so would continue a disgusting legacy.

Disappointment and frustration is comprehensible, especially as such an opinion affects the lives of others, but trolling a post of someone’s story of an unplanned pregnancy? Daubing it as manipulative? Is it right to create a market that positively snarls at the thought of pro-life? Does this really provide a choice for pro-life advocates to escape being accused of ‘not helping overpopulation’?

Pro-choice is seen as encouraging choice for everybody, apart from those who don’t adhere to their philosophy. Some may say, pro-choice only applies to abortion but if those who are pro- choice inhibit other life choices, does it count at all?

Easy-going or fashionably left? Liberal or kind of liberal?

Posted by Katie-Rose Coughlan