Thank God for MLK

As a person of Irish descent, I would just like to say, God bless Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

America has been blessed to have his leadership and his embrace of non-violence. If you don’t think that matters, take a look at what happened in Ireland.

The Troubles started in Northern Ireland when I was in high school, and I’ve always been amazed we haven’t seen the like over here. The Troubles were a guerrilla war between paramilitary groups like the Irish Republican Army (IRA), made up of (nominal) Catholics who wanted Northern Ireland to join the Republic of Ireland in the south, and various Loyalist (loyal to the United Kingdom) paramilitary groups, police, and army forces who wanted Northern Ireland to remain a member of the United Kingdom. (This old grudge, going back decades, originated when what is now the Republic of Ireland separated itself from the United Kingdom, while six counties in Northern Ireland chose to remain.)

It started out as a civil rights movement resulting from ongoing discrimination against Catholics. The North is a majority Protestant country, and it discriminated against Catholics in housing, jobs, and finance, etc., much like whites discriminated against Blacks in the U.S.

You might ask, how can you discriminate against someone who looks just like you? By looking at where that person went to high school; that’s usually a pretty good indicator of religion. Politics were colored by religion, which is generally a bad thing for peace.

Unlike in the U.S., the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland quickly devolved into a guerrilla war. On one side was the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and on the other side were various Loyalist paramilitaries, the Northern Ireland police, and United Kingdom army forces. The favorite weapon of war was the random bombing. More than half the peopled killed in the Troubles were civilians, including a lovely lady who worked for my Auntie Mary, killed during the May 1974 bombings in Dublin. She was walking down Talbot Street as a bomb set by Loyalist paramilitaries went off in a garbage can right next to her. This guerrilla war went on for thirty solid years and solved absolutely nothing. It kept parts of Northern Ireland in a virtual state of war, killed 3,500 people, stymied economic growth, and wreaked havoc on the childhoods of all too many kids for an entire generation.

We avoided all of that. The discrimination inflicted on Catholics in Northern Ireland was mild compared to the long-term discrimination and violence perpetrated on Blacks in the U.S., yet such things didn’t happen over here. That is amazing, and due in large part to the non-violent leadership of MLK, the black churches, and the enormous patience of Black people.

White people are spoiled. All I can say is, I pray we get get our shit together before that infinite source of Black patience runs out entirely.

I also sincerely pray that we might actually be hearing the nickels slowly dropping into numerous white heads across the country as we slowly come to grips with the realities of what went on in our history, who is responsible for it, and the extent and consequences of the institutional legacy that remains in place inflicting ongoing damage. I am totally in favor of a national novena to that end, which would be a fine project for our bishops instead of their usual blather. In this novena we would pray that that we open our minds and hearts to the realities of our history, and that we cease being witless about our responsibility to reverse systemic racism and honestly face the issue of reparations.