Saturday, 21 May 2011
The Queen's Visit and the Power of Weakness
It feels as though something very good and healing has taken place during the Queen's visit to Ireland this week.
The Irish and the English are neighbours whose history is for better or worse tied up with each other. The bad blood between them doesn't need rehearsing, whether felt as '800 years of oppression' or outrage at IRA violence, but it has festered away for years, and left behind all kinds of tragedy and pain on both sides. And it is always tragic when neighbours don't get on.
I am, I suppose, an illustration of the relationship. As the son of an Irish mother and an English father, who grew up in England but spent most childhood holidays feeling at home with family in Ireland, I have always felt a bit of both. I have both an Irish and a British passport. I happily support England at cricket, Ireland in rugby and both at football. My friends are mostly English, my wider family mostly Irish. And I know many others like me. Being such a mixture, I instinctively feel that trying to separate Ireland and England, like Irish nationalism tries to do, expecting everyone to speak Irish, propagating the myth of Celtic origins that made the Irish fundamentally different from the English was crazy (that it is a myth and that we are close cousins genetically and racially was there for all to see in Fergal Keane's excellent history of Ireland showing on BBC on Mondays).
I remember being at school in the 1970s during the IRA bombing campaign and getting abuse and graffiti on my school locker for being Irish, then spending holidays in Ireland and being teased for being English. Such is the fate of the half-breed. But the Queen's visit this week has healed something. No trace of the frequent English superciliousness towards the Irish. No trace of the usual Irish chip on the shoulder towards the English. A good deal of humility on both sides, a touch of repentance and warmth.
It was not insignificant it seems to me that it came through a frail 85 year-old. If David Cameron had gone, with his Etonian confidence and air of superiority, he would have evoked all the classic Irish feelings of resentment and inferiority. As it was, this sense of harmony and healing came through a weak, unthreatening, quiet, polite and humble old lady. A sign again that the deepest healing and true strength comes not through power and force but through weakness, humility and grace.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
at May 21, 2011
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