Sunday, March 15, 2015

St. Patrick, Belfast, war, peace & me

    Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated in the month of March every year.  And so is Julius Caesar's infamous Ides of March.  One is spozed to bring good luck to people and the other is spozed to bring bad luck.  Which will it be for you and me?  We've probably both already found out.

     The Minster of Finance for Northern Ireland was spozed to speak in Berkeley this week, but that's not going to happen because he had to stay home in Londonderry in order to deal with a current legislative crisis involving welfare reform.  The DUP (protestant) party wants to cut off welfare and the Sinn Fein (Catholic) party does not.  Sounds familiar -- except that in America the Democrats never protect the poor of this country no matter how viciously the Republicans attack the most vulnerable of us all (50% of all American children live below the poverty line and most welfare recipients live in Red States).

     St. Patrick would never approve of any of these cuts to the poor in order to give (even more) money to the rich.  And neither would Jesus.  But I digress.

     What I really want to talk about now is my trip to Belfast and Londonderry, back in 2003.  I had packed up my then-teenage daughter Ashley and gone off to live on the Falls Road for a while.  And then wrote about it on my "Travels with Amy" blog site.  It's a long read for a blog, but worth every moment if you ask me.

     Let's just cut to the high points, however.  The woman we stayed with in Belfast had this to say about The Troubles: 

      "We were young when The Trouble began.  I was only 18.  We only wanted to peacefully protest injustice; call a little attention to it.  And they came down on us with everything they had."

     We were sitting in Mary's front room just off the Falls Road.  She was smoking a cigarette.  It was 11 pm.  "Had we known then what our next actions would lead to...."  Her voice trailed off.  "War is a terrible thing.  We had no idea.  We were young and we weren't going to let the Loyalists get away with it.  My husband spent 18 years in jail.  He was in every major prison in Northern Ireland, England and Scotland.  I always say that jail was our contraception."

     Mary loved the Good Friday Agreement.  "We must compromise, cooperate and give-and-take.  I think the other side sees that too.  Having known war for 30 years...people just have no idea what a terrible thing it is.  You talk, you dialogue, you negotiate.  You do whatever you can to keep the Good Friday peace."  She reminded me of the Bob Dylan song, "I was so much older then.  I'm younger than that now."  Mary is active in building a community from the ground up now.  "Before no one knew how to work a government.  Not even the Orangemen.  Neither of us had people on the Council.  Now we do.  We started from the bottom up.  When the British do leave, we will know how to govern ourselves."  That's what we are doing in America, I told her.  We're stepping up against the "Stealing of America" by Wall Street and War Street -- stepping up to the plate one city at a time.  One person at a time.

     The one thing I learned in Belfast and Londonderry back in 2003 was that War is to be avoided at all costs -- and never to be taken lightly.  Libya, Iraq, Ukraine, Syria, Palestine, Haiti, Afghanistan, Somalia, Chile, Panama, etc. have tolled death-bells that can never be un-rung.  None of those dead millions can ever come back to life again.  And all those dead trillions of dollars spent on War can never come back to life again either.

     So.  Beware of Caesar's Ides of March -- and listen to St. Patrick instead.  Then get to work driving all of those evil, greedy and power-mad snakes out.
PS:  A few years later I went off to Palestine and wrote about that too.  And there is such a strong comparison between The Troubles in Northern Ireland and The Troubles in Palestine, including Gaza, that it is scary.  It's the same old story of evil, greedy and powerful men oppressing those who are weaker than them -- for fun and for profit.  That grim and brutal occupation of Palestine should also be avoided at all costs.

     And any future wars on Russia, China, Venezuela and Iran should be avoided too -- for the same reason.  If you too knew what it is like to be living in a war zone, you would never support another war either.