Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Peaceful Process

Gerry Adams, the leader of the Irish Republican Party, Sinn Fein, is in Canada this week, and I just finished listening to an extended interview with him on the CBC radio programme "The Sunday Edition" with Michael Enwright. I must profess that I have been a supporter of a united Ireland for my entire life, and, in my younger years, even had a reluctant sympathy for the tactics of the IRA. In my early 20's my passion for Ireland was fostered by my studies of Irish history, Dubliners songs and the fact that my Grandmother had to leave her home in County Down on account of the Troubles. In 1991 I moved to Ireland, where I lived in Dublin for a while. The woman living in the flat above me was a lawyer for Sinn Fein, and through her I met loads of folks in the Republican movement, but I also met a lot of other Irish people as I traveled through the North and the Republic.

Gerry Adams and the Sinn Fein message has changed substantially since the Good Friday Peace Accord from one of violence to one of peaceful reconciliation. I was so impressed with Adam's words today, his tolerant tone, what appeared to be a sincere desire to accommodate Unionist ideas in a untied Ireland, and even his respectful words for his arch nemisis, Ian Paisley. When he spoke of the orange and green being united by a strip of white which represents peace on the Irish flag, it truly seemed that he believed these words, acknowledging that Irish history and culture are a grand mosaic and has its place. Adams cited the Orange parade held annually in Donnegal, which is never marred by the violence of the Orange marches in Ulster. When the Orange Lodge master was ask why this was, he replied that it was because they don't threaten anybody. This makes sense: fear causes a fight or flight reaction in our psyche.

By my mid 20's, I realised that violence never begets peace, and, while remaining empathetic towards the Irish cause, I could no longer condone the tactics pursued in realising their political end by the IRA. While it is easy to get caught up in romantic ideals in our youth, the thought of freedom fighters, etc., one must become aware what affect certain tactics have in achieving or not achieving one's goal. Perhaps it's even ironic that I ended up being married to a fantastic English woman, and that my sister-in-law is in the British Army, having done a couple tours in Northern Ireland. Life is a captivating sojourn.

In the end, Gerry Adams message is one that has proven potential here in Canada. This nation has a fragmented past. Cultural clashes and a number of issues that could clearly left us as a nation in the tumult of violence, hate and intolerance, has become a country that, while somewhat fragmented, exists in peace . In our early days as a nation, the impacts of Imperialism on the First Nations peoples was brutal, wars were waged between the French and English, and the vast majority of Europeans who arrived here came as political or economic refugees. Prejudice against Natives, Irish and Blacks, cruel treatment of the Chinese, Germans, Japanese and Italians, and a strong sense of French nationalism have all left black marks on our history. While still struggling with Quebec Separatist and First Nations issues, we are a nation that allows people to live according to their culture.

No nation is perfect, nor free of historical blemishes. If the people of a nation reflect on what has caused the scars and bruises on their collective past, they will see that a future of violence and hatred will only result in a deepening of these wounds. Our world has witnessed war, migration, ideological changes and horrendous happenings. We can not alter the past, and we find ourselves standing in the place that we are presently at. Where we move is up to us as the future is all we have, and we are in it together.

So here's to peace for the people in Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo, Palestine and all of the other troubled parts of the world! May all people "be the change they wish to see in the world" as Gandhi demonstrated it, ending bigotry, bombs and bullets.


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