Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Degrees of Damage

It is a place of red hand flags and heroin and thick Protestantism, the politics not the religion really except that it is in so deep, and the new Sainsbury's and the new cinema really can't cover it up no matter how much the district council talks of new jobs or how many kids go to the integrated college, because, well, that's the top and the top doesn't tell you much. Never has.

So the Reverend Paisley will make phone calls and will pretend that he prays for the lost child. And Sinn Fein will insist that this proves that they are not the bad people here. And in houses across this "province," if it is that, or "occupied territory," if it is that, because, holy fuck, it is both and neither and we all know that, more will stoke their offspring with hatred than will stoke them with sense, all the while blaming "them" – Taigs, Proddies, Brits, Provos, Orangemen…

Michael McIlveen went to see a film on Sunday. He was fifteen and, well, I do not know. I did not know him. But I was fifteen once, and an angry fifteen at that, in an angry place, and fifteen-year-old boys run in packs, and they say things, and they challenge each other. It was what they do, what I did, what you did. It is one way we test the world. So, no matter that his family says he was just a "wee quiet one," and, yes, he may have been, as I said, I don't know. It does not matter. Was he quiet? Was he angry? Was he quiet at home but boisterous in his group? We know lads like that, do we not? It does not matter.

Michael McIlveen went to see a film on Sunday in Ballymena. An ancient town where the bells of ancient churches rhyme through stone streets and echo across the land. A Catholic kid among Catholic kids in a Protestant town. A kid in a place people have divided because they like power and privilege and because they do not care. And perhaps, just perhaps, at the cinema he said something, or someone said something. Things are always being said, but we all know they do not need to be.

Michael McIlveen went to see a film on Sunday in Ballymena and sometime after the film was over he was chased down a street and beaten with a bat and stomped by other boys, damaged boys, because he was Catholic, because the Reverend Paisley likes power, because Tony Blair will spend billions of pounds on Iraq but cannot be bothered with his "province," because the London literati announced last year that The Troubles were over, because the world has grown tired of this, because not enough people will stand up and say "stop."

Michael McIlveen went to see a film on Sunday in Ballymena and now his family will bury him in the cocoa-coloured soil of the north of Ireland, and the rains will fall, and the bells of ancient churches will rhyme through stone streets and echo across the land. Everyone on the island has expressed their regrets – as I am sure they should.

In London the Prime Minister could only say, "My legacy is a fourth term for Labour." The Queen said nothing at all.

copyright 2006 by Ira Socol


Brenda said...

There is bitterness here, the folly, the suffering of innocent ones, especially children, the inability of those in power to see what it is like to lose a child to the violence that keeps erupting, keeps erupting

Over the same issues, the same issues

And I like the poetic construction of your prose, the repetition at the beginning of the paragraphs, "Michael McIlveen went to see a film on Sunday in Ballymena..."

An ordinary event, especially for a 15 year old, with a tragic end.

And it need not have happened...

"The Queen said nothing at all." Blair in for the fourth term. The Irish problem still a backburner, a non priority. As it has been for centuries.

When will it change?

Will it ever?

A powerful piece of writing that evokes strong response, only that those in power would read it.

narrator said...


There is so much blame. Enough to go all around. But I will not put it on boys damaged from birth by this environment. I just wish our governments would think of children first...

Anyway, I could send it to 10 Downing Street, but I don't think Tony will read it.


Irenicum said...

It's great to see you back on! Let me know when and where and I'll be there! Ah, so much to get caught up on.

Fromage de Merde said...

Unfortunately it’s the aftermath; the bleak futileness that the struggle breeds from having gone on for so long, still faced with the injustice of unchanged minds, whose end product continues to be lost lives and forgotten dreams, that haven’t the room to grow or even been given the chance to yet to be realized.

Damage inflicted from the rhetoric of the likes of Paisley and his lot show such senseless distortion of the truth.

And in the end we all lose…

Anonymous said...

Sad story. Beautifully written. -- Danny

Anonymous said...

William Burroughs said that language is a virus from outer space. I always took that to mean that language is something you catch from other people, but which comes from some single person catching it from some mysterious 'outer space' type place. And most culture is the same way. You catch it from other people. Including the intolerance.


narrator said...

we often think of the "transmission of culture" as a good thing, and it can be, but it can also be disastrous. A virus that destroys the future. How does that get solved?

Brenda said...

The problem, and I started to write a piece on it before my current family crisis, is that they discovered Neanderthal skulls with fractures caused by weapons they were beating each other to death how many thousands of years ago? Before the Romans came to Britain, before written language came. Transmission of culture, oh it's been a plague, a curse for a long time. There never was a peaceful, agrarian time. If anything, the intrepid rise of democracy, for all its faults, may in fact be what saves us.

Chretien simply said no to joining the US war on Afganistan, and then Iraq. With the support of the Canadian people. Don't know about Harper, the present guy. But, oh, Blair, where is thy conscience? How come some world leaders have it, and others don't? What do we do?