Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Luck Of The Irish

I'm sure I've probably mentioned it before on this blog, but my bachelor's degree (AKA My Ticket Into A Library Science Graduate Program) is in British history. Like a lot of college degrees, it is a fairly useless one - although it did teach me the finer points of research and writing (which I know you can't really tell by reading this blog).

When I was a history student I tended to gravitate towards the tragedy end of the spectrum. Not so much because I like reading about death and misery, but because I'm fascinated by how resilient human beings are. That in the face of unspeakable tragedy, human beings have the ability to dust themselves off, start over, and rebuild their lives.

The tragedy I spent a lot of my undergraduate years devoted to was the Irish Potato Famine, which in turn led to me studying the Troubles, and British/Irish relations in general. I have to say, I never thought I'd see peace in Northern Ireland. Too many years. Too many old wounds. Too much idiocy, stupidity, and senseless violence. But peace came - and while the wounds are still there, they've scabbed over. Unfortunately, every now and again, someone waltzes in and rips one off.

News came last week that two British soldiers and a Catholic police officer were murdered. Blood-curdling news when I read about it in my local paper, and certainly cause for concern that violence was returning to Northern Ireland. Luckily though, it seems that old adversaries are determined to not let this recent spat of violence derail peace. Anybody who remembers (or has a lick of sense) does not want to relive the violence that swept through the area during the 1970s and 1980s.

I've never really seen the point in St. Patrick's Day. A throwaway holiday Americans use as an excuse to drink shitty beer and getting shit-faced drunk (I know, I'm such a little killjoy). So in honor of the day, I instead hope that Ireland is successful in overcoming this latest tragedy. That the work of a few militants will not derail the peace that the greater good has fought so hard for.

I'd also like to take the time to recommend one of the few books I was forced to read in college that I actually enjoyed. Belfast Diary: War As A Way Of Life by John Conroy was originally published in 1987, and has become somewhat of a classic when you're talking books about the Troubles. The author lived in Belfast for a time, and details roughly 25-years of the conflict, covering quite a bit of the 1970s, the hunger strikes, and Bobby Sands. An excellent, haunting read that takes you through the Troubles by way of the streets, and one that has me praying that this latest spat of violence will quickly pass and not ignite into an inferno. There's nothing quite as senseless as history repeating itself, and I hope Northern Ireland doesn't fall into that trap.


azteclady said...

Thank you, Wendy--here's seconding your wishes for continued peace and increased understanding between the factions in Northern Ireland.

Anonymous said...

Just started reading your blog and I'm really enjoying it and this post summed up my own feelings about St. Patrick's Day very well. I'm a librarian with a masters in European history (with a focus on Irish history) and I can second that recommendation of the Conroy book.

Lil Sis said...

Well, technically we are Protestant Irish sis so we don't really celebrate St. Patty's. Got to wear orange - not green today. :) Which of course used to annoy my students, "miss why aren't you wearing green?!?!" Sigh I had to laugh when practically NONE of my students had Irish blood still insisted on wearing green for the holiday. :)