“The Troubles”

We watched several episodes of a show on PBS about Northern Ireland back in the day when the residents of that pitiful area were hell bent on killing one another. It surely did bring to mind our current situation here in America. Let me ‘splain.

Per the documentary, it was the fight for Civil Rights in America that was the start of the troubles in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Catholics were deprived of their civil and economic rights by Protestants. It led to significant income inequality, always a dangerous element that precedes serious woe with accompanying violence. Marches led to confrontations with police, and ultimately deaths of marchers and officers. At some point, the clashes turned from marchers versus cops to Catholics versus Protestants when fear took hold and the Ulster Defense Association got involved. There was an Evangelical minister called Ian Paisley that became the face of opposition to Catholics, among other sins like homosexuality, civil rights and The Good Friday Agreement that stopped the violence. Sinn Fein was the political arm of the violence sect of Catholics known as the Irish Republican Army. It was made up of the descendants of the same folks who tried to separate Northern Ireland from Great Britain during World War I.

With all that as background, think about life today in these good old States United. Evangelical support for Donald Trump. January 6th uprising at the capital. Guns everywhere with accompanying massacres. States passing legislation allowing open carry of weapons. These are all the elements in common with “The Troubles” as the natives in Northern Ireland came to call the civil war there. So are we actually already in a civil war here?

The most interesting part of the documentary was the testimony of people involved on all sides: Protestants, Catholics and police. All of them were effectively brainwashed to believe in their ’cause’, just as left wing Democrats and right wing Republicans have been. In the case of Northern Ireland, nothing was going to stop the violence until, in my opinion, it had effectively run its course and everyone was ready to compromise. George Mitchell, the Senator from Maine, helped negotiate the agreement. It took an outsider to make it happen.

Women had tried in the early 80’s, but the hatred was too strong and they were still in the tit for tat phase of war that ultimately lasted for 30 years. It was unlikely that women could bring about peace, given the misogyny on both sides of the dispute. So that’s a lesson in how to address our current difficulties. It likely won’t be women who will change things in this country. And the fact that it took 30 years to run its course says to me we won’t see ultimate resolution for quite some time here. It also says things will get much worse before they are resolved.

Northern Ireland was too small a space to have much effect on anyone outside their own back yard and eventually assassinations of members of the Royal Family and attempted assassination of the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. That is where our situation differs from theirs. Our troubles will affect the whole world, given our status in political and economic terms. Today is the 26th, and still there’s no agreement on raising the debt ceiling. Default will be another chink in the armor of reason in the US. All we can do is watch and wait to see what happens next. I am not encouraged.

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