I read in The Week this morning about Ireland’s legalization of gay marriage by national referendum. “The Catholic Church has lost its grip on the Irish,” writes one commentator. “A stunning transformation from the Ireland that refused to legalize divorce three decades ago,” the article’s author says.
Reasons for the change are varied, one being that the Church’s moral authority was wrecked by revelations of widespread sexual abuse of children by priests. Another is that Ireland has grown rich during the Celtic Tiger boom (have to look that up) which kept the youngest and brightest (by implication – the most liberal) home rather than emegrating. Modern media is suggested as a cause for change.Modern Ireland is a “young networking society.” This has certainly been the reason for changes being made throughout the world. Through the magic of mass-media, people are rallied to step forward for any number of causes, for better or for worse.
I suppose all of these reasons can attest to a change in the thinking of a nation. But I really appreciated a suggestion made in the article’s closing paragraph: “…let’s be clear about why the Yes campaign (succeeded). The Irish are storytelling people, and gay-marriage supporters brought us heart-wrenching narratives of ‘exclusion, fear, loneliness, and unhappiness’.”
Stories have always been the impetus for change. One can argue all they want about proposed legislation that, in theory, makes perfect economic or logistical sense. But when the stories are told of those who suffer as a result of such legislation, it pulls the rug out from under the politician’s arguments. Whether the stories are those of mothers afraid to let their children play in the streets outside their homes, the stories of the children of illegal immigrants unable to get an education, or the stories of those who lose their home because of medical costs, it is the stories that win our hearts, then our minds, and eventually our votes.