All entries for Wednesday 03 August 2005

August 03, 2005

Why Do We Still Listen To Him?

Alright, hypothetical sitaution.

America, 1960s. It's the middle of the Civil Rights movement and there's a massive, and very important, shift being forced through by a wide variety of figures. Whether it's Martin Luther King preaching equality, Malcolm X's more militant strand of Black Power, or just a small act of justifiable determination like Rosa Parks not giving up her seat on the bus, there's an unstoppable change for the better coming. People oppressed and segregated for a reason as ridiculous as their skin colour, a difference which does not ultimarely harm any non-black, are standing up and asking for the human right of equality. How can any right thinking person say no?

Imagine then, in the middle of all this, there is a white politician who continues to insist that the black community does not deserve equal rights. To give them such rights would destroy white society, a better society in his opinion. He may have some support from those afraid of the revolutionary tone of Malcolm X, but he himself, and many of his followers, despise all blacks, even those who are pro-peace, even those who are just sitting on a bus.

So the blacks gain their deserved civil rights, and America doesn't fall to pieces because, obviously, it was never going to. But this man remains in politics. He remains spouting racist hate. He calls countries with black majorities and black governments names like "hell" or "land of sinners". He preaches against such people as fundamentally reprehensible, from the youngest child to the oldest great grandparent. Now imagine this man was head of the Republican party. George W. Bush may be stupid and not too popular but he's not racist. Imagine if this racist was the leader of the largest party in America. Would you be appalled? Would you be sickened? Would you have dealings with him?

If the answer to those questions is yes, yes and no, then answer me this – why do we still give any credibility to Dr Ian Paisley?

Back when the Catholics of Northern Ireland, inspired by the blacks in America, asked for Civil Rights, Paisley was at the forefront of the movement to deny such rights. He was defeated. He has since spent decades preaching what essentially amounts to religious and ethnic hate against the Irish Catholics. His is not a doctrine based on such principles as 'will of the majority' (as the majority in Northn Ireland want to remain part of Britain anyway) or national benefit (NI would do as well economically and legally under either London or Dublin). He wants to remain seperate from Eire as it is, to his mind, a nation ruled by infidels and popery. The fact it isn't makes you wonder why he bothers. Surely the only 'Catholic' aspects of the Republic of Ireland left in law as things like the ban on abortion, a state which exists in NI anyway and which Paisley would probably prefer. So to continue with his anti-Eire (not pro-Britain) attitudes surely amounts to racism?

But the problem is that we must deal with him on a political level. If we accept Sinn Fein, a party which in all likelihood houses a murderer or two in its ranks, then we have to accept Paisley, surely? Well, yes and no. Because whatever their past involvement in whatever crimes, I doubt very much that Gerry Adams and co. have picked up a gun and shot anyone recently. They may still be unpunished for crimes but they have, at the very least, moved on. Paisley hasn't. If the IRA can move on why can't he?

And this is the crux of my intense dislike of the man. I'm not a Republican. I can assure people that there is a sizable number of Irish people in the Republic who don't care about the six counties of Ulster. With its forward looking and integrated nature, the last thing a lot of people in Eire want is the sectarian north landed on them. They struck down the Republic's constitutional claim to NI (articles 2 and 3) by a large majority in 1999. But even people like this dislike Paisley. He won't concede an inch, even as the Republican movement has conceded more than a few. His refusal to budge has put the peace process years behind where it could be. There are a fair few Brits I know who find him frustrating in the extreme. And what's worse is that his bile has spread throughout parts of the Protestant community. The DUP is the largest Protestant party. It's unlikely that all their voters are as racist as him, but it's not going to be an insignificant number.

Intransigent and reprehensible. The Protestants deserve a leader who isn't so damaging, so unable to see that a little compromise can help. His "no surrender to terrorists" rhetoric may seem heroic to some, but to others it's crazy to spurn the chance to end this. The Republicans have not unified Ireland, and probably no longer expect to. They have not imposed "popery". In a way all they've gained is equality in law. But they seem satisfied with this. They've offered to end their terrorism. It would appear to be case of accept this, maybe lose a little face but end the killing, or reject it out of principle and see the danger of more atrocities remain. In history there are no such things as total victories. Paisley has to accept this or everyone else, Republicans, the British, the rest of the world, will lose patience. Or maybe he can't. Maybe it was never about Loyalism or Unionism or defending his Protestant constiuents. Maybe it was only ever one man's racist vendetta against people who had the audacity to exercise their freedom of worship.

Just a thought…

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