Opinion Columnists

Sunday 18 August 2019

John Masterson: 'Waking before sunrise awakens a political debate'

1990: Madonna in the video for 'Vogue'
1990: Madonna in the video for 'Vogue'

I am either becoming an insomniac, or I am reaching a stage in life that I need less sleep. Perhaps I am going to bed too early. Whatever the cause, I regularly wake up fully rested around 4am which is before the sun has even bothered to get up so I reach for the phone and turn on the BBC radio app. It never takes long to find something that you know absolutely nothing about. So it was that I found myself listening to a documentary about "vogueing".

I suspect many of you know as little about "vogueing" as I do. Madonna fans will be well informed. It was a dance craze that came out of New York in the late 1980s where the dancer adopts various catwalk poses as the music pulsates. If you Google it you will find it as impressive as I do and I wish I could turn back the clock on my rusting body or be born again with rhythm. It was a big hit in gay clubs.

Which brought me to thinking of June 12, 2016 when a gunman killed 49 dancers in Pulse, a gay night club in Orlando. It may not have been a homophobic crime as the perpetrator had checked out other places to attack and stated his reasons were to do with the bombing of Iraq so he may have been just looking for a crowd. Whatever. It was a dreadful crime and makes me, a lifelong opponent of the death penalty, wonder if there are some creatures who deserve it.

Pulse may just have been the very unfortunate location in that case but there is a wave of homophobia about the place these days that I find very unsettling.

I am old enough to remember when David Norris was the only gay in the country. He was soon to be joined by Rory and Dino in Mrs Brown's Boys and Graham Norton on the telly. A prominent Fianna Fail politician kept his sexuality private his entire career. And even the Taoiseach had to think long and hard about how to tell us. Thankfully the dominant reaction was 'so what'. Or so I thought. Now I wonder have we come as far as I thought. The normalising of sexuality with the marriage equality referendum seems to have unleashed some Neanderthals who previously kept their out-of-date hatred to themselves. And I am not just thinking of the DUP. Somehow it is all the more shocking when you hear adults who have had the benefit of education and who do not live their lives on Twitter clinging on to values that they may say are not homophobic, but which give a licence to other people who may see statements as justification for hatred or violence.

Ian Paisley never hit an RTE cameraman, but when he pointed to the crew at the back of the crowd that he was pumping up with inflammatory talk, I would not like to have been in their shoes. Trump is continuing the tradition of open season on journalists.

Apartheid aside, I am not keen on mixing sport with politics. I know nothing about Rory McIlroy's opinions and am happy to keep it that way. I will watch him hitting a golf ball from now to kingdom come. And I had been happily watching international rugby without knowing that some of these superb athletes are born-again idiots with ideas on sexuality that belong to the Ark, if it is not inappropriate to use a religious metaphor.

So what to do? We now know what some of them think and tweet. But these are exceptionally good rugby players who have given great pleasure to rugby fans. Should they lose their jobs? I don't know. Will we have to wait patiently until, one by one, they discover that their son or daughter, best friend, uncle or aunt, teammate or whoever is gay until they can accept people with the sexual orientation they are born with? I hope not.

I only know one thing for certain. No one is going to burn in hell. Just as no suicide bomber is going to be rewarded with 72 virgins. I don't know what awaits women suicide bombers.

Those myths come from the same part of the indoctrinated imagination as homophobia.

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