Friday, June 20, 2003

Excising the little Democratic corner of my soul

I was raised in a fairly traditional Irish Catholic Democratic family. It horrifies my Mother when I publicly state that I am a Republican. She maintains that I am the first of my family to ever dishonor the family by voting Republican (though I am certain that my father voted for Reagan).

I will never forget when one of my (VERY Liberal) cousins actually burst into tears when I said out loud “I am a Republican” at a Thanksgiving dinner when I was in college. Another cousin, who is a university poli-sci professor, told me that I was not really a Republican – I was just confused. I was forced to get up from the table and get my membership card for the College Republicans out of my wallet to pass around the table to demonstrate to my horrified relatives the reality of my political affiliation.

I share this background as a semi-explanation for what I have realized was a little Democratic corner of my soul. I have always been fairly proud of what I considered my ‘rational’ views on political issues as a Republican I was opposed to what I viewed as the ‘emotional’ perspective as presented by Democrats. Unfortunately, I was not yet able to completely stamp out my emotional response to the issue of ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland. Luckily my friend Grady has moved home to America to educate me on the facts of the issue. Arming me with facts that prepare me to take a rational position on this issue.

My friend Grady over at The Hard Press is an expert on the issue of Northern Ireland compared to me. Grady lived in Belfast for a decade, received a couple of degrees from Queens University and married a lovely girl from N. Ireland (I can’t wait for her to get her visa). In comparison, most of my understanding of the issues comes from family lore and a general understanding that there should be a united Ireland.

I never imagined that I should question this belief – it came down to me as an article of faith. The only history I learned was from the perspective of those who would claim that the British are robbing the Irish of their destiny as a free unified nation. To be perfectly honest I didn’t really care one way or another. When I saw news stories on the situation it seems to be bad all the way around – neither side seems to have the moral high ground. I guess that my position on the issue of the troubles would have been considered tepid support for a unified Ireland. I figured that was the way the island should be arranged politically but I never felt that strongly enough to donate any cash to the IRA (unlike many people I know).

Then September 11 happened. Like many other Americans it caused me to re-assess my position on terrorism. One thing I realized was that this type of issue does not allow any person to sit on the fence. Terrorism is terrorism. I needed to excise the last little Democratic corner of my soul – the part of me that reflexively figured that the IRA was (to use the Reuters term) more ‘freedom fighter’ than terrorist.

Luckily Grady moved back to America and has begun to educate me more on the history of the ‘troubles’ – from both sides. This has been very enlightening to say the least. I do not agree with Grady’s positions on some of the issues at hand but I do agree that the IRA must be stopped.

What amazes me is the fact that even after September 11 there are Americans who continue to support terrorists. On The Hard Press Grady has been writing about Northern Ireland and has received some hate mail for his efforts. I find it telling that the mail he receives is not engaging him on the issues (including the unforgivable use of terrorism by the IRA) but rather consists of personal attacks on Grady and his wife.

After reading Little Green Footballs for the last year and a half I have realized that this is the sign of a deluded member of or sympathizer for a terrorist organization. They are unable to defend their positions with reason and must resort to vitriol. I personally hope that someday a letter will be written to Grady that will discuss the issue using the power of reason. Until then I know one thing for sure – that last little Democratic corner of my soul is gone.


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