Minoring in anthropology meant that I not only had a passion about other cultures, but that I was one of those folks that valued cultural relativity. But it’s been hard to be sensitive the past 24 hours.
Seeing bonfires that are a few stories high is one thing. To then see the tricolor (Irish flag) placed on top of them so that it burns is another. Yesterday, I watched as parents and their children spray-painted hateful acronyms like “K.A.T.” (Kill All Taigs, a derogatory term for Catholics) and “F.T.P.” (Fuck The Pope) onto flags and big pieces of plywood. That’s not what I would think of as a good father/son bonding moment.
Most bonfire sites, and there were MANY, lit the “kid bonfires” early.
Then at midnight the large ones were lit.
I watched as a dad, after he and several others drenched the wood in gasoline, handed a torch to a 6 yr old to “do the honors.” Everyone cheered, drank, and enjoyed the fire’s warmth on such a cold evening. Then, just as excitement seem to settle, the Irish flag was consumed. The children were the first to cheer, then came the exuberant adults, sounding as if they had just won the lottery or something.
(This photo is also not my own. At the lit bonfires I didn’t have my camera.)
At most bonfire sites, there were DJs and kid-friendly activities throughout the day leading up to the evening festivities. Red, white, and blue was everywhere.
Except for the green, white, and gold that waited on the wood pile to be torched. I watched as pop music was blasted, kids danced, and parents waived flags…while a 15 ft x 20 ft sign that said “K.A.T.” sat in the background.
The parades this morning have done nothing but added to more tensions, as you can see form this news report and videos from The Guardian. And then many from the Catholic communities will do whatever they can, going out of their way, to get offended, finding an excuse to throw the first petrol bomb.
Again, it’s hard to have sensitivity. This isn’t cultural heritage. It’s drunken, ignorant hate. It isn’t respect for tradition, but a celebration of violence, oppression, and terror. And the worst part is, children are taught this shit from day 1.
The tricolor is obviously called so because of the three colors: Green, white, and orange. The green represents the Catholic, Irish population. The orange, the Protestant, British population (after King William of Orange). The white is for the peace that unites them.
Fires were meant to keep us warm, to be light in the darkness. Not a tool for destruction of a people’s flag. Not for consuming Pope dolls and Nationalist politician signs. Not for hate. But I guess, as an outsider who came here because it’s the YAV “Peacemaking and Reconciliation” site, all I can do is use this as fuel for the last two weeks with the PeacePlayer events I have coming up, knowing even more the importance of continuing the efforts of bringing people (children, especially) together.
Lord, hear our prayers.