Monday, March 17, 2008

26 + 6 = 1

I spent the last few weeks reading Malachy McCourt's "History Of Ireland", mainly while on the cardio machines at the gym. The book condenses 2,500 years of Irish history into 400 pages of entertaining and insightful reading. I grew up in a predominantly Irish-Catholic neighborhood in Boston and through osmosis learned much about the history of Ireland. I am about 75% Irish, give or take a few percentage points, but if anyone knows anything about Irish history you know that Ireland has been invaded by so many outsiders that few from the Auld Sod can claim pure, unadulterated, Irish blood.

Irish symbolism was everywhere in my childhood from Irish flags flying from the flagpoles, directly beneath the American flag of my more affluent neighbors, to the cloth shamrocks we would sew into the collars of our jackets. I used to see a bumper sticker that I knew had something to do with Ireland, but never understood it until I was in high school. It said "26 + 6 = 1". Next to the equation was an image of the complete island of Ireland. This is in reference to a uniting of the complete island of Ireland, which would consist of the 26 counties of the country that is now known as The Republic of Ireland and the 6 counties of Northern Ireland which is part of Britain. The British have been invading and inflicting themselves upon their island neighbors to the west as far back as the beginning of recorded history. The terrorism that developed in the 70's through the 90's was aimed at ending British rule over Northern Ireland and having a united, complete country.

As a kid I never gave "The Troubles", as the problems in the North were called, a thought. I was not aware that many of the illegal activities such as gambling, gun running, extortion and drug selling that we were part of life in the city of Boston was a means of funding the Irish Republican Army, the terror organization that was trying to force the British out of Ireland. Many of the Irish social organizations that would march in the parade through South Boston each March were funneling money 3000 miles across the Atlantic to fund the terror campaign against the British. Many legitimate business owners and people also funded the IRA. When I was older and heard rumors of local peoples involvement in the IRA it was confusing to me that people that lived so far away would care so much about a place they left. Until I did my own reading and learning did I understand that the British used every terrorist tactic to keep the "unruly" Irish people in line for hundreds of years. They used rape, starvation, torture, imprisonment in their efforts to conquer and subdue an entire island nation.

In reading Mr. McCourt's book I had an epiphany ( James Joyce first coined the term) of sorts. I realized that the struggles in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland's struggle to become independent is similar to the plight of the Black man in the United States. Both have had to endure living in the midst of people that hate them based on racial identity. Both have had their women raped. Both have had horrible atrocities committed against them in the name of law. Both have been treated sub-human.

Can we condemn Black youth and Black leaders for being militant and being bitter after the years of abuse that was inflicted upon them at the hands of the same government that was supposed to protect them? At least in the case of the Irish, with the exception of a few broken treaties, the British never promised the Irish anything, but pain and suffering to please the crown. 70 and 80 years after gaining independence the Irish were still so bitter that they were willing to commit violence to reach their goal of a united Ireland. The violence of the 60's that many Blacks still alive today experienced first hand have hardened many a black man. Fortunately for the United States, Martin Luther King, a proponent of non-violent change was the leader of the Civil Rights movement. His non-violent protest, I feel, is the basis for relative peace that is place in the North of Ireland today. Acts of non-violence like Bobby Sands hunger strike in the 80's and Gerry Adams disarming of the IRA in the 90's led to the "Good Friday Accord" in 1998 part of which states that when a majority of those living in Northern Ireland vote on it and are in agreement, that the English will leave the North and the Republic of Ireland will for the first time in history, be whole.

An Irish Blessing

May you always have walls for the winds,
a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,
laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,
and all your heart might desire.

For a thoroughly entertaining view on having some Irish blood coursing through your veins check out Friday's post at my cousin Jimmy's place, click here Sul-Dog.


Dave said...

I used to have that 26+6=1 bumper-sticker on my old Honda Civic when I lived in Allston-Brighton.

Mushy said...

I got a little coursing through me veins...all mixed up with Scot, English, and Cherokee, but I've always had a warm spot of Ireland and we plan to go there next year...maybe.

Did you watch the John Adams mini-series on HBO by any chance? It sure makes you think about what saying United States means when you say it. We all run it together without thinking, but it began as a united effort between 13 separate states, and if you think about it, we are 50 separate countries united under one set of laws.

Suldog said...

Well said, Cuz. I'm not as big a student of Irish history as you are, but it's always amazed me that a people so abused could sometimes be so abusing towards others who have been abused. It certainly makes you think.

If there is righteousness in the heart,
there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character,
there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home,
there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
there will be peace in the world.
So let it be.

plez... said...

see? i knew it would be a good idea to come to your blog on St. Patrick's Day! *smile*

thanks for sharing!

jjbrock said...

Mr.Sullivan nice article. this is the first time reading any thing about Ireland are it's history.

The Republic of Ireland's struggle to become independent is similar to the plight of the Black man in the United States. Thanks for the information and thanks for stopping by The Old Black Church.

Dirty Red said...

I admit that I don't know anything about the Irish. But after reading this post you made me want to do more research. This was a good post man. I think you need to stay away from blogs like mine and the Field's. You are starting to act like you understand. (smile).

Kevin Smith said...

There is a definite correlation between the experience of blacks in the United States and that of the Irish-Catholic. One major difference - by the time the Civil Rights movement was taking hold in the United States, the federal government in the US was making efforts to rectify the issues.

There was still violent racism between people, and individual localities were a problem - but in the United States, the federal government didn't use a peaceful protest like the March to Atlanta as an excuse for a genocidal shooting gallery like the 1972 Bloody Sunday shooting in Bogside.

The Irish Catholics tried peaceful protest as a way to effect change, only to see thirteen protesters (two of whom were minors) cut down by the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment, who were later cleared of wrongdoing. Even with a new inquiry into the events of that day established in 1998, there still is no report regarding the obvious that many independent authors have been able to conclude in their own investigations.


The Troubles always get me off on an angry rant. My grandmother (an Irish-Catholic) came over from County Derry when she was 16 (around the time Michael Collins was trying to negotiate a peace with the British).

For other in depth Irish History, check out Tim Pat Coogan's work. He wrote one on The Troubles, and several bios including books on Collins and Eamon DeValera.

David Sullivan said...

Kevin: You are 100% on point! The overt government violence is the difference, but MLK was a huge inspiration to the peace process which is still tenuios at best. Thanks for the book recommendations.

David Sullivan said...

D Red: It's not hard to understand. Its common sense. It ain't rocket science! LOL Its about opening your eyes.

jjb: I enjoy the give and take over at DR's. Welcome.

Plez: After studying your picture more closely do I have a Blackmans nose or do you have an Irishman's nose? lol. My buddy Tim (black dude) always says "Sull, I know you go a little in ya" refering to my nose.

Mushy: With your love of beer and storytelling I would be shocked if you didn't have a little green in ya.

Dave: Wade Boggs + Tony Pena = One Ugly Bastard

Cuz: My sentiments exactly!

Kevin Smith said...

I do feel that the correlation between the American Civil Rights movement and the Irish Revolution is an interesting one. The band Black 47 (a reference to the Great Starvation, known generally as the Famine - a misnomer as Ireland was producing an abundance of crops that the English were shipping out of Ireland to England, but feeding only the tainted potato crop to the Irish) has kind of covered that with songs about Northern Ireland, the Irish Revolution, and people like Paul Robeson and the Kennedys.

Worth a listen if you're into the Pogues or Dropkick Murphys...only more political than either.

ZACK said...

This is an EXCELLENT post, Sully! I wore green for St. Patty's day on my own yesterday. So get your kente cloth out next February. Just kidding!

And as for my roommate, he didn't scare me as much as my blackness scared him. LOL! :)

Anali said...

Great post David! should have picked up this post and educated some people!

Los Angelista said...

Anali pointed me over in this direction and I'm so glad she did. This is fantastic post and the connections made are ones that should be talked about more but aren't.