Credit: An Garda Siochana

The Passover, and the Gardai’s “rainbow car” twitter fight

The basic idea of decking garda cars out in rainbow colours to mark Pride Month (which is still some six weeks away, so they’re a little early) is to demonstrate inclusiveness, says the force. This is on the face of it an odd precedent for the Gardai to set: If painting a car is a demonstration of inclusiveness, must they also daub one with a crescent moon to mark the holy Muslim month of Ramadan? Should there be a car with Gardai written in Chinese letters to honour our Chinese community? Heaven forfends that they should ever be asked to produce one covered in orange paint to mark the glorious twelfth day of the month named for Julius Caesar.

It’s an odd idea of inclusiveness, really: Why do the Gardai feel the need to prove themselves inclusive at all? Is it some kind of admission that there is reason to suspect that they are not inclusive as it is? Because if the Gardai are not inclusive, then a painted car will not fix the problem. And if the Gardai are in fact inclusive, then a painted car is just an insult to the organisation inflicted by itself.

One might have thought that having the same colour scheme on all of its cars was in fact evidence of inclusivity: Here we are, we represent everyone, regardless of sex creed colour or orientation. But apparently not.

Twitter users, as one might expect, were not impressed. This interaction got a lot of attention:

Some people took this as a threat directed at their commenter, implying that “not tolerate” implies arrest and prosecution for whatever wrongthink (and we’ll come to that in a moment) was in his tweet. As it happens, I don’t think that’s what was intended – I suspect it was more along “we won’t tolerate this kind of carry on in our replies, you should be applauding us for this like a civilised person with the correct opinions”.

In either case, it is an extraordinary comment. The Gardai had the option of remaining silent. Instead they chose to suggest that this person was making derogatory remarks. Towards who?

The remarks are clearly not derogatory towards Muslims, whose faith makes no secret of the fact that it considers homosexuality sinful. Nor is it derogatory towards LGBT people, who are not even mentioned in it. If anything, the remark demonstrated the problem with the Garda’s approach: When you try to look “inclusive” towards some communities, you will sometimes inevitably appear exclusive towards others.

In any case, the inclusivity thing is nonsense. This initiative is not about inclusivity, and never was: It is about political and cultural insurance. Put simply, the Gardai fear criticism from the progressive left much more than they fear criticism from PeterPaulGuy on twitter. And there is only one faith left in Ireland which still requires public acts of devotion from those in authority. It’s not Muslims, by the way.

Years ago a politician who met the Pope or a particularly influential Archbishop might be required to publicly defer by kissing the ecclesiastical ring and receiving a blessing. That has all been done away with. In its place is the requirement for public devotion to the rainbow flag, which is a cause that one is no longer permitted to simply passively support. The support for it must be overt and public, or otherwise one might find oneself suspected of heresy against it.

The reason there are no Garda cars daubed in crescent moons to celebrate Ramadan is a simple one: There would be no questions for the Gardai about why they did not overtly mark the occasion. Were the Gardai simply to ignore Pride Month, in contrast, they would risk being hauled before some committee or other and asked what steps they were taking to demonstrate their reverence. The car is the modern equivalent of kissing the papal ring, or daubing one’s lintel with the blood of a freshly sacrificed lamb. The garda rainbow car is not that dissimilar, when you think about it, to the words we find in Exodus 12:13:

The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

The Gardai are not alone. As Pride Month, or Pride Season, or Pride Year, or whatever it’s called these days, approaches, more and more organisations will put out the sign so that they might be passed over. In companies and universities and public bodies, people will get badges with ominous warnings:

In GAA clubs, motions will be passed – or perhaps nobody will bother with a motion since who’d dare vote against it – to fly the flag. In many cases, new updated flags will be ordered online and in plenty of time lest anyone think the old one transphobic. (The new one above with the circle includes asexuals, if you were wondering).

All that it really takes for this nonsense to end is for enough people to call it nonsense and refuse to take part. But don’t expect that to be easy. Nobody wants to be thought of as derogatory, after all.


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