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A plea for inclusivity  

By Dr Pat Harrold - 19th Mar 2023


Don’t call me ‘your own’ because you think I am like you, especially if you share my skin colour, accent, religion, or sex

We should look after our own first!” We hear that a lot lately, but never from Brother Kevin, or Sister Stan or those who actually look after people. There is a type of social commentator who has decided that ‘our own’, as they call them, are now in need of some kind of priority. Not that they themselves will be out with the soup and the sleeping bags, or even calling for a tax increase, but somebody should do something about it. About our own. And a populist politician cloaked it well, but still came out with it in the Dáil. She knew who she was talking to, and why she said it.

When I first came back to this town as a doctor, after many years away, there were those who were keen to claim me.

“Sure aren’t you one of our own,” they would say. It was nice until I came to realise what they meant. If I was their own then it meant somebody else was not and, furthermore, it implied an obligation to give them special treatment. It was not long before they wanted the sleepers and painkillers and sick certs, and the supposed kinship turned nasty. There was no talk of being one of them then.

I have been on the lifesaving courses; most doctors have. There is usually a simulated crashed car and a team of instructors. You have a man with head injury, the unresponsive woman, the injured child. Their age and vital signs are given, and maybe their coma score. What is not given is their ethnicity, colour or religion. We are trained to respond to need, and nothing else.

So don’t call me ‘your own’ because you think I am like you, especially if you share my skin colour, accent, religion, or sex. ‘My own’ don’t bawl out hateful rebel songs, and cover up sexual assault, and defend gangsters and murderers. ‘My own’ don’t legislate for women to stay pregnant, and lock migrant children in cages.

‘My own’ don’t ignore climate experts, and public health experts and they don’t troll and vilify and bully those who speak the truth.

‘My own’ don’t try to stir up hatred between the city and the town, and pretend that because a bus service has been set up in a village that the shower above in Dublin want to take away your cars.

‘My own’ don’t roll their eyes at me when they see a Traveller. ‘My own’ don’t turn their backs on suffering and say they brought it on themselves, and sure they are only economic migrants anyway. They don’t go to church and do the opposite to what their religion preaches .

Bruce Springsteen has a song We Take Care of Our Own. Like much of his work it delves deep into the title – it is kind of an anti-MAGA song.

“Wherever this flag is flown,

We take care of our own.”

The flag “from sea to shining sea” means that the poor, the unfortunate, the immigrant is protected. In Ireland, there are those who would misinterpret and abuse the Tricolour, that revolutionary symbol of a new country, to bully and disenfranchise anyone they see as different; not Irish enough, not one of us. “Ooh Ah.”

Who are ‘my own’, if not these jingoistic, nationalistic heroes? Well, I will tell you. The little boy who has left his toys and Dad behind and is living in a hotel room. The girl on her own at break-time because she looks a bit different and has no friends. The grey-haired GP who is only still working by a colossal act of determination and loyalty, who has served their dues in a thousand ways and continues to care. The working-class politician who has used his talents to serve the people without cunning or artifice and endures the sneers and traps of the cynical on a daily basis. The girl who was maimed in an explosion before her life properly began, and still bears the scars and disability, and turns on the televisions to see a would-be Minister bawling out rebel songs and saying “Why don’t you lighten up, sure it’s only a bit of fun.”

These are my own: The exhausted nurse; the mother who sings to her children in a direct provision centre to drown out the hate chants of the mob; the Palestinian Jew who walks the streets unseen. Take care of them, and finally apologise for your wrongdoing, and you can claim me as one of you, but not beforehand, do not expect my vote or loyalty.

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