There have been few contests of war’s bloody struggle for hard felt belief in modern times as tragic as the fight between Protestant and Catholic, IRA irregular and British commando, as that between combatants in the bitter conflict for belief in Northern Ireland over the past hundred or so years. Yesterday, the eighth of May, Year of Our Lord 2007, Roman Catholic and Protestant extremists, long bitter enemies, broke bread together at the same table, creating, what I believe is, an historic opportunity to demonstrate and lead the world away from conflict.
Most people outside of Ireland and England have but a piddling conception of that struggle and its historic implications and stimulating possibilities for the rest of the world. Americans, historically dumb when it comes to events outside of the fifty states, will have even less of an understanding of the import of this event.
For Americans to put this event in perspective and grasp the value of what has just occurred in Northern Ireland let me suggest you imagine the following scenario: Louis Beam appointed Attorney General of the United States, with Secretary of Defense Che Guevara standing at his side. All right, Ernesto is dead at the hands of the CIA, so make that Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! Secretary of Defense. Does such an event sound inconceivable to you? Implausible? Doubt not that such an analogous event has just occurred in Northern Ireland. You have now a mental image of what was also labeled an “unthinkable coalition” in Ulster until, when yesterday, the Right Reverend Ian Paisley took his position as First Minister, and his deputy, senior IRA commander Martin McGuinness, sat down together for a spot of tea and to form their new government of reconcilement and peace.
“Come let us reason together,” may seldom have had more application than this singular event.
Ian Paisley speaking: “A time to love and a time to hate. A time of war and a time of peace. From the depths of my heart I believe Northern Ireland has come to a time of peace.”
Sinn Fein’s (in Gallic this means “ourselves alone”) Martin McGuinness: “We must overcome the difficulties which we face in order to achieve our goals. This and future generations expect and deserve no less from us.”
While these two sworn enemies —who were labeled “extremists” by the world’s visionless, pawned, political leaders, news media hacks and academic pretenders-to-knowledge, who are but dry, empty fonts of correctness— looked on, this amazing, phenomenal moment in history occurred.
“Where there is no vision the people perish.” Reverend Paisley and IRA militant McGuiness have both shown themselves to be visionaries. By doing so they have produced the very bright possibility of leading by example other nations and other equally bitter peoples away from conflict, from death, from blood, from misery, to a more peaceful and safer, future day.
Applications of this example of reconciliation are far too numerous to list. Nonetheless, think for just a moment of the ongoing struggle between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, where the bodies are piled high and the blood runs in rivers in Iraq and elsewhere. Think of the broader conflict between a militarized democracy of war (yes, this means the United States) and Mohammed’s jihadist devout. Think in terms of Africa, where genocide is self-inflicted by blacks upon each other as regular as clockwork, where miserable death has exceeded by several million in just the past fifteen years all the death and misery of blacks who ever were enslaved, mistreated or died in the horrid chains of slavery to another man. Think of Palestinians and Israelis beating their bombs into plowshares. And think perhaps, if you are capable, of the former Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe, where truculent blacks murder white farmers and their families driving them from their farms only to allow the fields to lie fallow, thereby producing starvation and misery for millions of their fellow, black countrymen.
There is room for vision in this world, for less blood, less heartache, and a far better day that brings a clear dawn of hope that perhaps men can indeed exist without killing each other in obscene numbers.
The exemplar of noble Ireland must be followed and applied elsewhere around the world. Let it not end at Stormont, Ireland.