I was reading about the possible renewal of “the Troubles” that wracked the north of Ireland in the last three decades of the 20th century:
The instability has been accelerated by the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. From the moment Brexit was passed, concerns about self-determination and national allegiance again stood front and center in a society deeply divided between those who support Northern Ireland’s constitutional status within the U.K. (unionists, most often Protestant) and those believing that the north of Ireland’s true home lies with the Republic of Ireland (nationalists, most often Catholic).
Unionists reject Brexit and the existence of an entity called Northern Ireland. Loyalists accept Brexit and want to remain British citizens. The two sides are unlikely to reconcile anytime soon. In fact, recent rioting might be a harbinger of the sort of strife that resulted in almost 3,600 deaths before a peace accord was reached 23 years ago.
“I wanted to go over there this year to find out if the Belfast Cowboy has lost his mind, but now I’m scared because of the Troubles,” I said to Swamp Rabbit. “Everybody thought they were over. How can people live with such madness?”
Swamp Rabbit put down his glass of Jameson and chuckled. “You must be trippin’. We had about 500 murders last year in Philadelphia alone. Don’t tell me about no troubles in Ireland.”
I took a minute to check the statistics. OK, the murder rate in the United States is much higher than it is in most developed countries. In recent years, there have been more than four times as many murders in the U.S. than in the U.K.
“But statistics can be misleading,” I argued. “The higher murder rate in the United States reflects our greater ethnic diversity and economic inequality. Murders in Northern Ireland during the Troubles tended to be politically motivated and reflected the –”
“Stifle it, Odd Man. A body is a body. The bottom line is you’re a lot more likely to get mowed down in North Philly than in Northern Ireland.”
Swamp Rabbit wanted me to name another so-called civilized country where cops get away with shooting unarmed kids. Where cops think it’s okay to slowly kill a handcuffed suspect in broad daylight, in front of witnesses. Where mini-massacres happen on a regular basis because of the easy availability of assault weapons.
“Biden has the flag at the White House lowered to half-staff every time there’s one of them mass shootings,” the rabbit said. “The way things are going, he might as well keep it there year-round.”
Footnote: The Troubles in Ireland arguably started hundreds of years ago. Troubled Belfast in the 1940s was immortalized in Carol Reed’s aptly named film noir Odd Man Out, about a disillusioned Irish Republican Army leader.