I was taken aback this week by my reaction to the media coverage of the Normandy Landings and the Tuam babies. I found myself blinking back tears of anger and frustration. Not for the men who died on the beaches nor for the deaths of the children but for our brave new world.
As the pictures of the great and good on the beaches were splashed across our monitors and angry words of indignation and blame were hurtled in the headlines and across Face Book about the Tuam babies, I began to feel uncomfortable.
I saw all the great and the good on the beaches and somehow the word ‘glory’ came to mind. All those dead men, not glorious at all. All those torn and lifeless uniforms, not glorious at all. Why were they all there on the 6th June 2014? To pay respect to the men who died? Or to be seen to pay respect? The latter I think. The media demanded it.
I first heard Catherine Corless discussing her research into the deaths of the hundreds of children the 27th May. She was calm, and informative. She wanted to discover their names and raise a plaque for the children to be remembered. It was shocking but I was not shocked. I have lived in Ireland for the last 20 years and sad to say I think I have become inured to the horrible stories of abuse and cruelty metered out by the State, the churches, the institutions and consequently by the communities they served. . But I was shocked by the clamouring voices. Suddenly there were demands for inquiries, and criminal investigations. How, I wondered. Who can be held responsible now?
Yes, I believe that Truth Commissions and/or inquiries are important. Yes, I believe that we must acknowledge and accept our past, apologise for hurt, killings, abuse and try to understand how to change. But sometimes the wailing, and the blaming the media serves up in turn serves no good purpose.
In both the Normandy Landings and the Tuam babies, the media was a blunt instrument. It stripped the two events of the compassion and respect we need to give them. I am a believer in freedom of the press but now I find myself wondering whether we need to look at how the media serves us as a society or more importantly, how we, as leaders and readers, respond to its ever righteous and screeching demands.
Or maybe, having entered my third age, I am becoming a cantankerous old woman.
Anthem for Doomed Youth
BY WILFRED OWEN
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.