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August 31, 2020


I don't think I could have summoned the courage to look at the news after reading about Ballymurphy. Reading your post and Seamus Heaney's words, it all just seems so bleak, so futile. Trump insisting on going to Kenosha despite the Governor asking him to stay away. After the Democratic convention, I actually felt heartened that things would turn around soon, that Biden was gaining, that some measure of sense would be restored soon. Now, I don't know. The only salve seems to be walking in the woods and poetry.

I've been watching that bit of film (of the priest crouching as he walked - not surprisingly - and dangling that pathetic scrap of white) for nearly fifty years.

Over the years the arguments have ebbed and flowed. Why, for instance, were the Parachute Regiment - trained to kill in extreme circumstances - given a job that the police should have handled? Was it possible that there was a gunman nearby? - the IRA said no but their principles in what they considered to be outright war differed from most other norms. Bloody Sunday became a reference point and a justification for mass bombings in Brighton and Birmingham and the abduction, in front of her own children, and execution of a mother thought to have been a "grass".

The terrible thing about what were euphemistically called The Troubles is that they went on for so long that that one became numbed. The killings and counter-killings were eventually thought of as normal. When the Good Friday Agreement occurred prisoners serving sentences for terrorist offences were freed. This was quite hard to take and one had to remind oneself that it was for the greater good. Thus the matter of who did what atrocity became blurred. It was generally thought that this blurring might cover Bloody Sunday but it didn't; I forget the arguments (perhaps because I wanted to forget them) but the fact that the enquiry was initiated and has continued (however unsatisfactory, however delayed) might be regarded as some kind of gesture (however feeble) on the part of the British government.

Meanwhile the Real IRA and/or the Continuity IRA disagree with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and sporadic murders still occur - notably a woman journalist within the last few months. The Stormont Parliament in the North, in which the DUP and Sinn Fein (the political wing of the IRA) sat down and legislated together, closed a couple of years ago over what seemed like a petty disagreement. Ironically its politicians were forced back into their workplace in order to solve complexities associated with the pandemic.

I don't often comment on this subject. Perhaps it's as well to be reminded of it. Our equivalent of My Lai, perhaps, although that was brought to some sort of rackety conclusion. This may never be.

Mary, thanks for commenting. It IS discouraging, and I agree that we each need to find our solace where we can. I was heartened, a little, by the revelations about Trump's remarks about veterans and soldiers, and that it came from his supposedly loyal FOX News. I sense erosion of support, and just hope it will continue until November and that the interference will be minimized. Wishing you some peace! I wish I had woods to walk in.

Robbie, thank you very much for adding your perspective here, since this is very much NOT my story, but yours in the UK. The closest I got, other than news accounts in the American media, was hearing Bernadette Devlin speak at my university in '71 or '72, and reading books. As we've seen in the U.S., justice for past wrongs is a difficult path. Canada has done better with its Truth and Reconciliation process, concerning the wrongs done to the indigenous population.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.