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On the day of the 2020 US presidential election, the most significant in my lifetime, there seems to be a glaring absence in the narrative.

This is, we’re constantly told, a pivotal battle for the soul of America — a fork in the road with two possible paths, one towards continued democracy, the other towards accelerating authoritarianism.

The characters in this morality play are clearly drawn. Joe Biden gives a consistently solid if unspectacular performance as the personification of decency — a man whose own personal losses have burnished his empathy and concern for others.

On the other side is Donald Trump, a man whose narcissism is so absurd, his misogyny so vile, his racism so sickening, his utter absence of empathy so monstrous, that he appears from most angles to have more in common with cartoon villains than with real, living and breathing humans. …

To what degree can referendums not just measure the national character, but shape it?

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The Aer Lingus float at Dublin Pride 2019

That was the question I was asking myself as I attended Dublin’s Pride Parade yesterday, because one thing was wonderfully obvious — Ireland is a very changed country from the one I grew up in. The streets of the capital were emblazoned with rainbows, and people everywhere were revelling in the sheer joy that Pride represents.

It was a display of collective exuberance that is profoundly moving once you stop to think about it all for a moment. In terms of the scale and reach across the city, it felt second only to St Patrick’s Day, which is quite remarkable. One is a national holiday ostensibly marking the man who brought Christianity to the island, while the other has become a jubilant celebration of who we actually are now we have chosen to define ourselves outside that religiosity — above all, a resounding expression of how open-minded and inclusive and multicultural we have become. …

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A few weeks ago, I heard the most beautiful, inspiring story. A friend of a friend, a woman in her late 30s, had summoned the courage to be her true self — first she told her close friends, then she told her siblings, and finally she told her parents, that she was attracted to women. The reaction from her friends and family was the same — unqualified support and love.

I was deeply moved by the story — I don’t know the woman, don’t even know her surname, but that process of someone feeling like they have to hide an inherent part of their identity due to external stigma before overcoming that pressure and finding love and understanding is, well, it’s profoundly moving. …


Davin O'Dwyer

Writer and editor based in Dublin

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