While we were driving around there, I was amazed to see that flags still fly at the edge of almost every town, identifying it as a Irish National or Unionist town. It was so hard to believe that regular people -- the people I was seeing and meeting on the streets!-- had such a violent history of hate.
But it's not really a history, it's still happening right now. This footage from last night is absolutely amazing. I mean people are really doing that! In this modern time? now?
It's crazy timing too, because we just watched a really good movie about the Troubles and reconciliation. It was great; not the "let's watch people forgive each other, oh isn't that sweet, " kind of way, but the "let's be honest about how painful it will be to forgive" kind of way. (That preview makes it seem a little more melodramatic than it is. trust me.)
While we were in N. Ireland we went to Armagh, because my great-great Grandma came from there. We discovered that the city has always been the "spiritual" capital of N. Ireland, and it has come to symbolize the Troubles. It's got two towering spires, from two cathedrals on opposite ends of town. One is Protestant, one is Catholic, and they're both called St. Patrick's Cathedral. There was a quiet and peaceful happy little arts festival while we were there. And yesterday, there were missiles and riots and explosions. 'Cause that's just the way they roll in Northern Ireland.
Protests and riots are things that we are comfortable having in our past. We like our struggles neatly depicted in our history as a fight for freedom and civil rights and liberty. We make nice stories out of the past, with good guys and and bad guys and happy endings.
But this mess, it's just a mess. It's just hate and violence born from centuries-old imperialism. And the peacemaking process is never going to come from outside--it never does, right? We just have to wait for the peace movement from inside Northern Ireland. Sometimes you just gotta admit that humans and our history haven't really changed much at all.