This year, I traveled aboard ship to Ireland wondering if my parent’s homeland has preserved the past, honored the traditions, and continued the ways of “The Troubles”.
When young, I glamorized taking sides, believing in a cause and wanting my side to prevail. Not quite understanding the big picture, my heroes were IRA rebels both peaceful protesters and guerilla fighters. Perhaps it was fear of the unknown. Perhaps fear of not being right. I chose to take sides against my fellow countrymen.
Does any of this sound familiar in this age of US party politics, inner city shootings and terror on our soil?
You may remember names like Michael Collins and Bobby Sands? Overall, they tried to make a difference for the cause of a single Ireland, but never lived to see peace across their land.
This time, 20 years later, I found my way back to the neighborhoods, the urban battlefields and even the corner pubs. Like a young man of yester-years, fist clenched, jaw high, looking over my shoulder for the bad guys, I was ready to take up the cause … again. I went back, looking for the martyrs at the Peace Wall and murals of hate along Falls Road. Not because I wanted to, but only cause I knew nothing else.
What I found was Green Irish men and Orange Irish women, pleasant, polite and happy to shake my Irish-American hand. Not wanting to face the troubles of 70's or really even speak of them. Wanting to show-off a revitalized Ireland. Prosperous in new ways and content or even proud of rising from the struggles. My God, even Catholic Jameson Whisky was being bottled in Protestant, Old Bushmills Distillery? Pubs, known for their old politics, were filled with students, young professionals and 90’s musicians. The talk, from both the Republic and the Nationals was centered about optimism and friendship. I thought to myself … now where is the enemy?
Now, in confusion, I reflect on my thoughts while touring Belfast to Dublin . Ireland is still complete with Old world beauty and charm from the Giant’s Causeway to Cliffs of Mohr to the Ring of Kerry. Hills and meadows are green, and beyond stonewalls the sheep roam freely.
But, today’s Ireland has found its way to peace among clans and counties. Prosperity is no longer based on what Ireland builds. Today, Ireland leads with their technology companies , medical break-thrus and US conglomerates that headquarter in Dublin. Small gauge railroads, not cars, run through the cities and delivery trucks are no longer allowed in the city center after 11am. Universities, health care, and goodwill are free for Irish nationals ... one and all. What is going on here? When unsure … end with a poem:
Oh it is the biggest mix-up that you have ever seen
Me mother she was Orange and me father he was Green.
They both pass on, God rest them, and I no longer am between,
The awful color problem of the Orange and the Green.