Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

War & Peace

Somewhere in the border area between the Republic of Ireland and the 6 counties of Northern Ireland lies Kinawley parish in the townland of Clonliff. There lies the border that divides the north and south of Ireland. And there lived the McManus family with their ten children.

I do not know the McManus family. I have read that from 1970 to 1974, Frank McManus ran for political office and ended up representing the constituency Fermanagh and south Tyrone. And I know of Father Sean McManus who founded the Irish National Caucus on February 6, 1974. Under his leadership, the Irish National Caucus opened its headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington on December 10, 1978.

It was in May of 1977 that I had made a trip to Ireland where I witnessed a few of the injustices that long had been sung about by Celtic singers. I saw what life was like for two sides in a war of terror. And my leanings went toward the underdog, in a struggle not all that different than the civil rights battle which had gone on in the United States 10 years before, or then going on in South Africa. With my passions inflamed, I sent Father McManus’ organization a check for $500. Then he started calling me asking asking for more. I don’t think that he had any idea that I was at an age in which shaving was still more an exercise of grooming than one of need.

The Irish National Caucus emphasized non-violence in the struggle for peace and justice in Northern Ireland, and sent out newsletters highlighting the works of people like Mario Biaggi (D-NY), Hamilton Fish (R-NY), and Ben Gilman (R-NY). Father McManus helped equate the MacBride Principles being used by Congress to pressure the South African government to the cause for justice in the North of Ireland. I recall in particular learning of the Ford Motor Company being a participant in the discrimination practices in their plant in Belfast at the time.

The British government always insisted that the American Congress was interfering with internal British matters, a lot like the Russian view about their involvement in the Eastern Bloc, or in oppression of minorities within the Soviet Union.

The Ireland of the 1970s was a complicated place. It was the provisional wing of the Irish Republican Army that was mostly in the news. I saw the supporters of Sinn Fein on the streets of Dublin in 1977, and from my reading, Sinn Fein seemed to be adherents of Karl Marx. Gerry Adams never fit my idea of a noble politician.

This morning I read a BBC news account of Ted Kennedy’s passing. It is noteworthy that the BBC news, I had heard through Irish Republican sentiment, would never report a story about the north of Ireland without supporting the political presence of the British there.

The BBC this weekend reported: “’Ted Kennedy was the key that unlocked the Clinton White House door over and over again. That’s not just once, but many times,’ said Eamonn Mallie, co-author of The Fight for Peace. While it was the president who granted the Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams a critical visa to the US in the run-up to the IRA ceasefire of 1994, it was the senator who helped persuade the president.”

I think a few accolades should go to Father McManus. I never knew much about the motivations of the man who speaks with an Irish brogue. Somewhere in the border region in the townland of Clonliff on July 15, 1958, on the day the oldest sister was married, Patrick McManus was killed in a premature explosion a few miles outside of Swanlinbarin, County Cavan. Patrick McManus had been on the run since the beginning of the the 1956-1962 IRA campaign. It was said that he was the commanding officer for South Fermanagh and a leading IRA man appointed to the IRA Army Council. When he died before the age of fifteen.

That Desmon Tutu Truth and Reconciliation Commission seems to come out of the ideals of the McManus Family, as to what could be accomplished working for justice and peace. Overlooking the injustice, working and praying only for peace, helps reinforces the injustice. When reconciliation was a long ongoing process.

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Term Limits

Watching parts of the funeral for Ted Kennedy yesterday, it hit me how few people who have been elected to recent public office in the United States wear eyeglasses in public. The president and those living ex-presidents. All the first ladies. Senators. And what good vision the elected government representatives had.

Or was it just vanity of vanities? The model of good government started with good looks?

My all time favorite forward was written in September 1986 in a book by Scott Walker. He was then working for the Minnesota-based Graywolf Press:

“After a time, some of us learn (and some more slowly than others) that life comes down to some simple things. How we love. How alert we are. How curious we are. Love, attention, curiosity. Layer by layer we discover and peel away superstition, fantasies, projections, levels of hate and anger and confusion….”

Human Expression

That abyss. People who once upon a time who had been in the abyss and now spent time pulling others out. In my education, by teachers. Or writers. To use perspective like artists once had in the Renaissance. In the dark, with the use of light. They used shadows to make a point. The conflict, in art. The tension in literature, in life. All great writers wrote about the abyss. To emerge out of the dark

Like a complete unknown, as Bob Dylan wrote when he was at such a young age, I had embarked this week on a work, a book, to address the issues of identity.

Starving artists. It was becoming the theme of my life in 2009. This week I was beginning to write a book about junior year abroad: the radiance of self-discovery of a student. For young men or women in search of answers. Through study. With the need of a young adult to be liberated from the tribal lien, so that religion would not become the source of disdain and aggression.

Issues of identity. Identity is just such a slow process. A lot like education. A lot like a career. Setting off in the real world. And being offered some pay.

The “what am I worth?” question. In this marketplace. Starving artists, starving novelists. Throughout the modern world, individuals and institutions grapple with the ongoing struggle to find out what they were worth. It was all part of the search for identity. In high school Latin class I struggled to learn Latin by translating Homer’s Iliad and then The Odyssey. Never in my lifetime did I think I would return with interest to The Iliad and The Odyssey. To the theme of that abyss. Trying to escape back home.

My desire at the age of 22 was to be in the real world. Was it a waste of time reading? In that first job everyone realizes how little that they know. I was done wasting time contemplating, rather than doing. Until that realization how little I knew.

In a world with so many begging for help, in search of answers. Unconscious in that 4-year island of time called college. Of the gift to be there. Watching so many squander the gift of time.

Trying to escape from the abyss. It was the same story found in myth from every culture throughout the world. The search and trying to escape from the abyss.

Now unless the gifts were shared, everything was squandered. Education was a waste unles passed along.

Presenting in fiction the present day struggle about spiritual quests. Iliads and Odysseys, and the struggle to pass on tradition in the current age. The struggle from generation to generation of off-spring. And to not fall into the abyss.

Starving artists. It was the theme of my life in 2009.

In that other quest for the Living God in a world full of people that seem to have that same ancient fear found in Judaism, where God’s name was seldom sounded, and spelled Y*w*h out of respect if not fear. To avoid the abyss.

That quest for a Living God. And the abyss. Women leading men into an abyss. Men leading women to the abyss. Generation after generation.

I think I had come to some form of acceptance about trying to present in fiction the present day struggle about spiritual quests. Iliads and Odysseys. The struggle to pass along a tradition in the current age. The same struggle from generation to generation, of starving artists to stay out of the abyss.

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Woodstock & Stardust

Woodstock. The musical world was remembering what happened near Woodstock, New York 40 years ago.

I had watched the documentary “Woodstock: Then and Now” last night. And I woke up hearing Van Morrison sing “Have I told you lately that I love you?”

I was in high school 40 years ago. Perhaps I was an idealist at the time, but the world had seemed a lot more equal. Those Woodstock musicians had helped with a sense of vitality to point out a few problems with the world. With the Jimmie Hendrix improvised version of the National Anthem, which had seemed to address a war in Asia, race relations in the United States, or maybe the state of the union between men and women.

There was a lot of soul in the music. The documentary seemed to me to point out in its ending what was missing in the music today, watching kids today try to emulate the past, as they learned to make music. The music today which all looked like a Disney production. To make money.

The vitality of Woodstock: Kids listening to music, shouting “What the hell is wrong with you?” back at their parents. It was the same lyrics they had heard since they had emulated the hairstyle of The Beattles. Educated long-haired kids who had to go back home. Kids who for a longest time had been asked the same question, “What the hell is wrong with you?” Kids who still loved their parents. Despite the world.

I watched the documentary “Woodstock: Then and Now” last night. About songs of protest and songs of love. And I woke up hearing Van Morrison sing “Have I told you lately that I love you?”

Woodstock was all about vitality. About having fun. With little concern for making money. It was about a rain storm that humbled the crowd to equality. It was about a time of innocence. When musical artists were not concerned about impressing the audience as much as each other. Woodstock was about the muse. And about the true meaning of music.

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How Are Things in Glocca Morra

These were times of fear. It came during a sense of great loss. Over wealth. Over freedom. Over loss of life.

Mob rule. Politics. The devil in history.

Addictions. Issues of liberty. Russia Mafiya. Evil. The contract killing. In the wake of the KGB. The devil in history. All the things that came together as a system collapsed.

Mob rule. Politics. The devil in history. In the wake of World War I. The laws passed. Politicians who exploited constitutions, in times of fear. Evil.

Times of fear. The aftermath of genocide.

A lot of the world carried a disbelief in the devil. Evil seemed to be asleep, in the popular view in 2000. Then came September 11, 2001. It was much more than the current American view that evil was directed against one nation. It was much more than those 19 people from overseas? It was what had happened globally. In Spain. In London. In Saudi Arabia. In Morocco. In Kenya. In Yemen. In Somalia. In Turkey. In Mumbai. In Bali. In Jakarta. In the Philippines

Terror. Times of fear. Power. The fight in the north of Ireland. The fight of Basque separatists. The battles within China and within Russia over ethnic minorities that desired power.

The patterns are present which reflect deep currents in global sociology which work against any effort to transcend divisions.

Division. Divide and conquer. It was the mantra of terrorist and political parties.

Hunger and politics were inter-connected. So was politics and religion.

Ireland. Today there was a story in the Boston Globe about the Irish returning once again to Boston. The writer presented an update on how fast the world could change. For ex-patriots returning home in the 1990s. And now headed back to Boston.

Ireland. I have commented in the past about the title one of the more popular books sold in Ireland in 2007, Vanishing Ireland. Technology had changed generation and a nation, so much that the Vanishing Ireland book became a best seller. There seems to be a silent grieving, an expressed longing, a spiritual-type hunger, expecting things to be the same. And in all of its wake, returning to your life, carrying on, amidst the change. All that the Celtic Tiger had done was to get the romance out of the system. When Ireland had conquered the ghosts of the past, with jobs, with peace, a secularism had come in which changed the nature of the Irish. And with it had come a new division. Welcome to the European Union. Where everything seemed based on wealth. And in all of its wake, expecting things to be the same, when everything is based on wealth. The devil in history.

The Ireland these ex-patriots returned to was not the place that they had known. There was no comment upon any ill-will directed at the European Union that had poured money into the place to help the economic boom, which had become an economic bust. Deflation was close to 6% over the past 12 months. There was just an unstated acceptance, about everything, as these ex-pats returned to day to day Irish life.

Wealth and technology. Technology had changed a nation, so that there seemed to be a silent grieving, among the ex-pats. Still with a longing. Nostalgia was also some kind of spiritual hunger, for what forefathers and foremothers always had had. And with silent grieving, the same type of conflict of the hungry with the well-fed. That was always the conflict within religion, a conflict over those who strongly professed religious belief, in conflict for what ever reasons with those others without.

These were times of fear. Over the void left. It came during a sense of great loss. Over wealth. Over freedom. Over change and the effects of change. Over how the void would be filled. Over what had in the past had always been there, at least before many native-born had left the first time. They were now leaving again for Massachusetts.

When you left for economic necessity, how could these former ex-patriots complain? Yet theirs was a witness to how the world had silently changed. Even in a place like Glocca Morra. Or Camelot.

The past is always with us. Sometimes it was not even quite past.

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Troubadours

A troubadour was out the window. Walking by my place. Energetically strumming a guitar. I could not hear the sound. But how could you not stare and wonder about the sounds? And who he was doing this for? Wondering about his direction in the neighborhood and what he was singing about.

My reactions to this scene was a feeling that this was 1969. When other youth his age had, with so much potential, so much to say. And the direction where they took the potential. In such a vastly changing world. But in a world that had little changed. Except there was now such little sound of protest by the young about the situation of the world. Of the wars. Of the injustice.

Little protest except by a “journalist” like Dawn Zuppelli. The hackers of the world that had replaced the honest protesters of 1968. Of 1969. Of 1970. The world of hackers. It was a week after my computer caught a virus. Dawn Zuppelli is a journalist, last August with Rochester IndyMedia. Long after the Republican National Convention has left St. Paul, after someone had read a posting here dated September 4, 2008, I read yesterday her Facebook page which lists her interests in the IndyMedia website as well as AK Press, which is currently promoting the 1st North American Anarchist Studies Network Conference.

Too many journalist were like baseball players. Like David Ortiz. You wondered what was inside. Who was to be trusted. Which ones were honest.

Troubadours energetically strumming guitars and singing . These guys seemed to have set out, unconditionally, not held down by conventional thinking. A work of art, a song, a response to the times. From an artist’s imagination comes original art, important precisely because it does not start out with clear knowledge.

It was why music and the arts were sacred. As was honest journalism, written at the start without clear knowledge, looking for the reasons, offering an explanation on why something happened.

Journalism called forth the same need for honesty that politics was supposed to. That troubadours used to bring. Artists, in search of a point to view. Learning to play an instrument. Until you could do your own version of a song. Until you gave voice to a new rendition. Learning a personal viewpoint from lives experiences. Presenting the new sounds of protest by the young about the situation of the world. Of health care. Of the wars. Of the injustice. A troubadour in search of his own identity, a clear sense of identity that work for him/her. In the search for meaning each day.



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