Sunday, February 03, 2002

Covering the Anglosphere II-Bloody Sunday-I have heard the term used for years, especially in the U2 song, but the coverage of the 30th anniversary of Bloody Sunday this week brought this part of the Troubles to light, as I had never heard it explained until now. The quick summary- British soldiers in Derry (more formally Londonderry, but locals tend to go with Derry) opened fire on Catholic marchers, killing 13. The army line was that they were answering IRA sniper fire, the Catholic/Republican line was that they were trigger-happy and firing on unarmed, largely innocent, marchers. I had been reading the coverage by British and Irish bloggers, as well as hearing a Fresh Air piece with two Times writers who covered the aftermath of Bloody Sunday. Their account mentioned that the area of Derry was a nationalist stronghold, with a large IRA-dominated section of town nearby, and that the elite troops that would up opening fire were ready for a fight with the IRA. Their investigation after the shootings counterdicted the army story; that the people shot were not IRA snipers, none of the people killed were armed. While I don't know the politics of the two Times reporters, they seemed to be calling it straight in the interview. My first response what that Bloody Sunday reminded me of Kent State, but the comparison is flawed. There was much more enmity to be tapped in Catholics than in the American anti-war movement and there was no near-civil-war (the Weathermen and other radicals notwithstanding) in the US over the Vietnam war. The IRA used (and still uses) this event coupled with that latent enmity to harden the hearts of Catholics to the British and their Protestant brethren. It will take time to heal the wounds that have been festering for a half-millenium, but people of goodwill on both side have to shout down the goons on both sides. The IRA is the primary offender, but there are also some Protestants that sound like Klansmen in their anti-Catholic bile. Over the years, the issues seem to have become tribal rather than religious, with Catholics resenting past mistreatment and Protestants fearful of being sucked into a Catholic country and resentful of IRA attacks. Before we Americans hold our heads too high, remember that we have a bit of this bigotry in the US as well. The KKK has it in for Catholics as well as Jews and blacks. As recently as 1960, Kennedy's Catholicism (his womanizing wasn't public knowledge at the time) was an issue with many people. There is still an unhealthy anti-Catholic streak, going beyond a healthy critique of Catholic extra-biblical doctrine, in many evangelical circles; pamphleteer Jack Chick and Bob Jones U being two examples. This has eased in the years since 1960. Conservative Catholics and evangelicals have made common cause on many issues recently; Catholic Alan Keyes was the darling of many evangelical voters in the last two Republican presidential primaries and William Bennett has become a co-warrior with evangelicals on many moral issues. In the US, the political divide has become whether you go to church on Sunday rather that where; churchgoers of all stripes tend to vote Republican. The blogs have been educational, as people like Natalie Solent have given an additional perspective. Solent notes that the Protestants are left out of the coverage of Bloody Sunday, that the fight is portrayed as a British Army/Catholic fight and that while more Catholics were killed than Protestants, that Republican goons killed twice as many people as Loyalist ones. Belfast resident Dale Amon noted the anti-Catholic bigotry in the North that bred that IRAs enmity. It may be just a bit of a stretch to liken pre-Troubles Northern Ireland to the Jim Crow US South, but Catholics were surely crapped on. We're starting to get past our black/white bigotry and have all-but gotten rid of anti-Catholic bigotry in the US. I pray that the same thing happens in Northern Ireland, that thoughtful people of both sects be brought to the fore and that the bile-spitters be pushed aside in time. It will take time for the enmity to subside, for the bigots of today to have their hearts softened by evidence of humanity in the people going to the other church.

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