by Teresa Notarmaso
Ok, so the conflict and subsequent peace agreement and times are complicated. While on the one hand, you have the majority for both sides wanting peace - a lasting peace. As one of our tour guides puts it (Garvin): "The Troubles - that's history - let's hope it stays that way."
When I heard his remark, I understood. While most of the people here appear to support a lasting peace, there still exists in the shadows those individuals who believe it is the life's work to continue the fight, at any cost.
We were in Belfast yesterday, particularly West Belfast, where there continues to be a wall dividing that part of the city, Protestant from Catholic. The divider is a total of three sections, from concrete to copper to steel. It is about three (3) stories high. The original intent was to keep both sides from lobbing petrol bombs, bricks and other lethal material to the opposing side. I believe the current intent is really more about keeping one side from having to 'see' the other. Really 'see' that the other side has had just as much hurt, suffering, and loss as the other.
Sure, war is aggression and has elements of evil. Surely The Troubles had elements of that. But The Troubles also is about difference, the lack of tolerance of difference, and the failure to see either side as human beings. After all, we all eat food the same way - different types of food, but we have to chew it, one piece at a time, don't we?
I was struck by a story one of our tour guides in Belfast said yesterday, Mark. Mark was a former British policeman, deciding to press into service only after realizing that illegally throwing bombs on the other side, because 'that was what you were raised with' was not the thing to do. A climactic event where he elected to not accompany his friends on a lobbing mission, and their getting life sentances, was the deciding factor. Yet while he was in the military, on his relief time, he witnessed first hand the devastation that bombing innocent parties in a market could do. Including his friend, who lost an arm, two legs, is in a wheelchair, now totally blind and deaf. And now in his 50s. The republican bomber (though it could have been anyone from either side, really) was let out with the rest in the amnesty agreement post the Good Friday Agreement. Fairness? You tell me.
Who are the victims?
Through his eyes, and through the eyes of republican Irish former volunteers, I am beginning to see that the victims are not limited to one side. Sure, there are the aggressors. But those too are not limited to one side of the coin.
I am struck by a dream I had last night, which leads me to tying this all in to understanding. You see, I married into a wonderful family, but one where there were very little boundaries set. Sometimes too much freedom is not a good thing. Over the years, I have patiently (and impatiently at times) watched as members of my husband's family disrespected who he is, and while I won't go into detail, I will say that I staunchly watched and advocated for him and judged the actions of the others. There was a lot of pain at times, often inadvertently putting him in the middle of our 'Troubles'. Thoughts like 'Why do they think that way? How can they treat him that way? What's wrong with them? I can change them' were common themes in my head.
Having the legal training at times can be a disadvantage too. While being able to look at all sides, I sometimes pull what I see as 'factual reality' while not stepping back and realizing that it is really MY reality. And so it goes.
Anyhow, back to the dream. So we had a big gathering, inviting all of his family to this gathering. It was a celebration of sorts, with lots of activities, presents, and chitchat going on. At some point in this gathering (I don't remember the precipitator), things just kind of STOPPED. I asked something about 'the status quo' (things that the other side was doing that I PERCEIVED was wrong to do), and received word that things were still going on la-de-da, like nothing had changed. Then I realized that nothing indeed had changed, that maltreatment of my spouse was going to continue. So in this dream, I got very opinionated (NO! :) and they all left. My husband was left, with tears in his eyes, missing his family, realizing that he accepted them for the schmucky behavior they (allegedly) were giving him, and realized that in my ardent advocacy FOR HIM and MY CAUSE, really, the victims were all around me. (DISCLAIMER: THIS WAS JUST A DREAM). Most of the members of the family (including myself) have had growth over the years. Getting there.
I woke up, just in time to get up and get ready today, realizing that this symbolized what is going on in Northern Ireland today. The "Free Marian Price" signs we saw around Belfast gave me cause to research last night, and boy, you should too. QUite the story. And the most recent arrest for her actions with the republican side, an 'extreme' faction, according to some, was in 2011. 2011! And the Agreement was signed in 1998! And according to biased and unbiased reporting I saw, she apparently has had some level of maltreatment/injustice. However, in response to the Peace Agreement, Marian said, and I quote, "I disagree with it. This is not the reason I went to prison for." REALLY? But it shows that the hearts and minds of some will continue to stay with nationalist philosophy, no matter what the personal cost. Very sobering. Everyone is a victim, as long as this continues.
On a much lighter note, it appears that last night there were no flag protests, though several were scheduled (as of this writing, I checked several reputable sources and did not see any new reports). So fingers are crossed. Toward understanding......