I remember loving Sinead O’Connor as a teenager. She is a beautiful soul. She cut her hair extremely short in order to reduce her attractiveness so people wouldn’t look at her as another pretty face. But it didn’t work. She was so pretty, cutting her hair didn’t change things.
She sacrificed her career – screaming in the loudest most unmistakable language about religious indifference, corruption and silencing in the face of child sexual abuse in the Catholic church. She did this by tearing up a picture of the Pope on national television while singing a protest song about the abuses of the church. People were outraged and offended. The measure she took was drastic and the public’s response was proportional. She epitomized Bahá’u’lláh’s words in the tablet of Ahmad: “be thou as a flame of fire to My enemies and a river of life eternal to My loved ones.”
The first thing that happened was she was vilified and lost her career. Saturday night live (the venue she chose for her notorious protest) showcased an actor threatening to beat Sinead who was herself an abuse survivor. The second thing that happened- is that after many years, the world realized that she was right and that the suffering of victims was continuing while the world ignored it. She was the first to stand up for abused children all over the Catholic world, before it was popular or even permissible to do so. She spoke up at a time when her actions really cost her something. But this made it easier for others to find their voice and to get help.
She named and shamed. She broke ranks. She broke rules. She broke hearts. People saw it as a mean-spirited attack against the church. She said the things no-one was prepared to hear – the problem the world had was, she was speaking the truth.
I want to encourage you to listen to a song she wrote which is like an unbelievably simple and heart-rending chant in which she says thank you for hearing me. It’s a song about the importance of listening to people, to your friends, to strangers, to victims. Hear them out – don’t silence them – don’t talk over them. Don’t reframe their experience for them. Give a down-trodden person your attention and let your heart be taken.
- Thank you for hearing me, by Sinead O’Connor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXyGEw8lHG8