Blog 4

21 Oct

DSCN4440Upon traveling to Northern Ireland, I knew what to expect of the rope bridge and of the eternally gorgeous Giant’s Causeway; but I did not at all expect to see and learn what I did from Belfast and Derry. Of course, I had learned of Bloody Sunday in high school, but it felt like distant history—distant both in time and in place. Yet going to the cities and seeing the murals really struck me profoundly.

Much of the violence occurred less than forty years ago, which means that my parents could easily have experienced it; and indeed, many of my Irish friends’ parents lost acquaintances as a result of the Troubles. Since my generation lives in a relatively peaceful world, I cannot imagine having friends gunned down by police or by citizens a few neighborhoods away.

I asked my Irish roommate last night why it became so violent; after all, civil liberties could be fought for and gained without violence. Yet I forgot how even in America there were violent protests. Certainly Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated peaceful protest, but others like Malcolm X condoned violence as justified means. Also, Bloody Sunday would have provided plenty of motivation for violent protest in Ireland. I still wonder a bit at why Britain would act so violently against Irish people, though I was pleased to hear that David Cameron formally apologized in 2010 for Bloody Sunday.

And while Dr. Casey is quick to point out that the Troubles were mainly political and not due to religious difference, the guides in Derry and Belfast would mention religion. I think there was a certain tie between politics and religion, but I agree with Dr. Casey that the antagonism was more in the name of religion than actually because of it. I visited St. Columb’s Cathedral, an Anglican church in Derry, and it was lovely; but I couldn’t help but notice the antique British flags hanging along the periphery. The flags were even hung on either side of the nave, even partially obscuring the stained-glass windows to the front and sides so that I did not immediately notice the windows but only the flags. And this immediately struck me as the British/Irish circumstance: Many have put up a national identity in front of religious beliefs and love for other people, so that love is covered up with hate, and understanding covered up with intolerance. And especially for sister religions such as Protestantism and Catholicism! It made me so sad to see these national flags covering up the whole purpose of the church, and made me understand more why the Troubles were due to politics and not just religion.

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