Children in the firing line?

Triumphalism has seldom been more ugly, more thoughtless or more superficial. Ireland, as the whole world now knows, voted to legalize same-sex marriage last week. But it did more than that. It abandoned reason in favour of raw and untrammeled emotion – and emotion untrammeled, as we know – or should know – can be an unaccountable monster. Love, fairness, and equality were the catch-cries of the winning campaign from start to finish. In their moment of triumph, however, there was little evidence of any of these qualities. What were in evidence were cruelty, unfairness and gross arrogance – and some children bore the brunt of of it.

Two two instances, among many, of children being thrown to the wolves of hatred and bullying abuse emerged in the past few days.

Two days ago, a distraught mother posted to her Facebook friends that during the campaign three of her children have had a difficult time in school. The worst was suffered by her 12 year-old in 6th class. “It began quite some time ago when a group of peers shouted at her, ‘You’re Catholic, you hate gay people’. She is a sassy miss and defended herself very well while keeping her dignity. However in the last week she has really suffered. She has always been friendly and never had falling outs with anybody…ever. Her immediate group of friends (about 4) laid into her because, as they said, ‘No’ people are ‘haters’, ‘bigots…blah, blah, blah’”.

Elizabeth (not her real name) told them “stop insulting my entire family and aunties and uncles.” They shut up. But then, on Wednesday, they were making presentations of work in class. Her presentation was good. She had put her heart and soul into it. There were rounds of applause for everyone but hers was greeted with a deathly and devastating silence. She has been crying since she came home, her mother told us in her post. This she fears, as does Elizabeth, is only the beginning.

Earlier in the week there was an account from another school, in the rural outskirts of Dublin. On the day of the referendum, or the day before, the class teacher – again 6th with 11 and 12 year-olds – foolishly invited the class to vote on the issue being presented to the country’s electorate. This was not to be done by anything as protective of freedom as a secret ballot. No, this was by a show of hands.

The vote went the way of the Dublin vote in the actual referendum – 70 to 30 for same-sex marriage. Fair enough, that might have been expected. What might not have been expected – although surely a sensitive teacher, knowing her class as she should, might have anticipated it – was the tsunami of vitriolic abuse the young “Yes” voters, probably following the example of their parents, then unleashed on the “No” children, who were probably also just following the lead of their parents.

Everyone says that there has been a radical turning of the social and moral tide in Ireland now. How radical?

There is a rather chilling little video film – about 20 minutes long – on YouTube. It may be ironic in intent, its purpose is ambiguous, but in the context of these stories it certainly loses some of its ambiguity. If what has happened in Ireland last week is another victory for the forces of the gender revolution, then the message of this film, in the context of those two sad little stories about 12 year-old children in two Irish schools, resonates ominously indeed.

The film builds on the fantasy premiss that our world is now a place where gay is not only good but where gay is the only good. It presents us, not with a sci-fi fantasy but with a sci-fi nightmare which a child in one Irish school and a group of children in another a few days earlier must surely have felt they were living in as their peers set upon them mercilessly.

Will the battalions of the Yes-to-same-sex-marriage campaign – official Ireland, Ireland’s child welfare agencies, the children’s charities in Ireland, and Ireland’s media, who were so triumphant all week, now come to the rescue of the new victims of bullying, unfairness and inequality?

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