Wednesday, 22 March 2017
To hear the eulogies echoing through the chamber of righteousness where the lefties go to hear the correct, party-approved and handily sloganised opinions, Martin McGuinness was a saint. When news of his death was broadcast yesterday it came with a soothing blanket of platitudes about a ‘man of peace’, as if stopping being directly involved in violence was the same as renouncing it, expressing remorse and confessing his sins. Being dead does not balance the account, it just erases the slate.
From an English perspective, having grown up during some of the worst atrocities, the solution was always simple – let Ireland have the north and be done with it. But as always, things are never as simple as they ought to be. We say two wrongs don’t make a right but, tediously often, tit-for-tat attrition is the only way humans can ever really ‘negotiate’. Keep up the terror, wear each other out until eventually only extinction or a handshake is left as an option. Both sides losing is somehow more palatable than either side being able to claim victory.
It has to be the same in the Middle East for the non-combatants. As with all sectarian conflicts – sunni versus shia, catholic against protestant, Arabs and Jews, communist against capitalist and on and on; goodies versus baddies with external onlookers unable to distinguish which is which. Occasional events my prompt a short-lived sympathy for the apparently wronged side but soon the retaliatory action turns sympathy into a helpless shrug and both sides are damned. Martyrs to one cause are murderers to the other and all the while the circus is both fascinating and repulsive at the same time.
These age-old conflicts don’t get resolved, they just get older. IRA activity affected much of Britain, with nowhere safe from, at times, almost daily bomb threats. For those of us who saw it all happening from the comfort of our television screens it was with a feeling of helplessness; we were never part of the fight and could never really understand it. But the violence hasn’t gone away; across Europe and the Middle East there is another sectarian war being waged and we have already become accustomed to daily reports of atrocities in the name of another set of beliefs we don’t understand and want nothing to do with. McGuinness was nothing new.
Northern Ireland... or Aleppo?
I don’t wish his family anguish or grief. I certainly don’t wish them the agonies he caused others. I don’t have a black, hate-filled hole where a heart should be. I just have a normal, biological heart, which patiently pumps life through my body and is a metaphor for nothing. I feel no joy that he has died, no satisfaction that he was relatively young. I feel nothing except a tiny sadness that he existed at all. But if it hadn’t been him it would likely have been somebody else; he was nobody special. He’s gone. Let his passing be marked appropriately; bury the body and forget he ever existed.