Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Praise to the Man

The last full touring day of our trip we headed to....hmmm, what should I call it? Legally known as Londonderry, historically known as Derry, and from what I can tell, you can remain somewhat neutral as long as you simply refer to it as "The City of Derry". This is the place where Bloody Sunday occurred decades ago, and has been a porting city and immigration stepping stone for centuries. Such history!

Derry has the blessed curse of being a perfect porting city in the midst of ancient fighting monarchs. Thus, it is the only walled city in all of Ireland. This ended up being an extension of my political history tour that occurred throughout this trip.

From my city walking tour, this was the bottom line: Gaelic natives live on water. English businessmen drool over porting abilities. Move in as neighbors, but soon try to keep the natives out. Fighting Irish kick butt. English leave. Later, London merchants return (this is the 1600's by the way) and this time invest in a big fat wall to protect their investment, and start to make bank on global ports coming into their hands. With the backing of the royal monarch, and to show the investment coming from across the water, the city name is changed from Derry to "Londonderry".

I have to add as a sidenote, this port was essential in keeping supplies to U.S. soldiers and allies during World War II.

So all this background evolves into centuries of Us vs. Them; Protestant vs. Catholic; Monarch vs. Republic.

Here's some photos walking along the wall. For decades British Soldiers patrolled these walls. You can see plants growing into the wall, and a quaint church just within the boundaries. It's also the elevated view that said soldiers killed 14 unarmed protesters in 1972. It was just this past June (2010) that Prime Minister Cameron apologized and admitted the soldiers killed innocent victims. That would be almost four decades after the fact. Our tour guide, a man in his 60's, practically cried when he spoke of the relief the people felt knowing the truth had finally been declared.

Here you can see a collage of Derry.
* The closer you get to "Londonderry" you see the "London" part crossed off the road-signs.
* Throughout Norther Ireland, most of the stained glass has been blown out. Here is some stained-glass windows in the civic building that were re-built in the 1900's. The city of Belfast has original stained-glass only because they took them out and hid them in a farmer's field for years.
* This famous statue is in a roundabout. It depicts a Protestant and Catholic reaching towards each other, but their hands are not touching.
* You can see this Loyalist community with curbs painted red, white, and blue-with the bold declaration that they are still Under Siege!
* This quaint courtyard begged for me to be an Irish Lass living in an apartment with a yellow door. So cute!

For me personally, I marveled at this centuries old religious and cultural history. I don't know that I feel educated or swayed to take one side or the other, though it is clear that one group was severely marginalized economically and socially. And yet the marginalized group later held a reputation for being violent and deadly in their retribution, and so some of the empathy becomes tempered.

I marveled. I wondered about my own religious identity and culture. I am Mormon. Although young in history (mid-1800's), the Mormons endured severe backlash for their beliefs. They built communities, then fled them as mobsters turned them out. They were burned out of their homes, their women were raped, their leaders were murdered in cold-blood. The Governor of Missouri even issued a legal decree stating it was necessary to kill and "exterminate" the Mormons. They left the boundaries of the United States, and settled the barren west. They sought redress from the U.S. President who stated "Your cause is just, but there is nothing I can do".

It seemed to me, with such a violent past, that my own religious heritage could have incubated an intense anti-government, Us vs. Them culture. I don't mean to compare the oppression that occurred for centuries in Ireland/England with the relatively young history of the Mormons, but it left me wondering.

What was the difference? Why did I come upon this violent Irish history and feel like a compassionate outsider unable to relate? Why did I wish they could feel safe, patriotic, and community-linked as I do in my city, neighborhood, and country?

Then I realized why this violent and unjust heritage didn't linger in the modern Mormon culture.

Quite simply: We have a prophet.

And because of Priesthood and Prophets, preaching patience and perseverance, forgiveness and hard work Mormons became famous for good citizenship in countries throughout the globe, even countries that cast them out and treated them like an infestation of bugs.

This isn't a neener neener Ireland post, just do this and all your problems will be solved, but I think it just might have something, or everything, to do with the difference. I feel relief for the relative peace occurring in Ireland, the breath of fresh air for people excited to move on.

But mostly I feel gratitude for my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. After all, there is nothing quite so gentleness.

For a taste of inspired counsel, watch this:


Mister. said...

Some additional information:

When the English government finally apologized for Bloody Sunday, they gave each of the families of the victims a miniature replica of the statue where the Catholic and Protestant are reaching for each other...only this time, in the replica...their hands were touching.

And I think that the tour guide DID cry a little...In that his voice cracked and he appeared choked up. He wasnt the only one too. I saw that reaction a couple of times. The emotions are so raw, and yet I was impressed at how much everyone seemed to want to put all of that behind them and move on. They really had a lot of hope for the future. I do to.

Lee Family said...

Thanks for taking us with you on your vacation - the pictures and the words - I feel like I was there. You are a sucker for colored doors - and vines growing on something - and fresh herbs you can smell.
and ME too - grateful am I for a prophet. so blessed are we.
luv ya.

jennaloha said...

Excellent sentiments.

But what I really want to know is- did you pick the plants growing in the Derry wall to make your salad?

Wade and Marilyn said...

I want to go to Ireland now! Loved the post.