Tag Archives: politics

Its in the blood (or at least the air…)

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So, I went to my “cardio kick” exercise class on Monday.  A proud moment of self-control and discipline in the face of i’d-rather-die-than-go-ness and a event of marvel in itself.  We’ll skip over the fact that my punches and kicks were rather half-hearted and that I only did one sit up for everyone else’s two…

Being still relatively near the start of a new year there were lots of unfamiliar faces there.  A couple of late teens were there with their mum and were wearing Gaelic tops.  Instantly I felt intimidated.  Now, its not like I’ve never seen people in Gaelic tops before – I work with an all-Ireland student movement after all.  But this was different!  This was in a town not known for its peaceable catholic-protestant relations; in what should have felt like neutral territory.

I leant towards my friend and whispered “Its hardly the place to wear Gaelic tops, is it?”.  She agreed: “It makes quite a statement doesn’t it?  We wouldn’t wear Rangers football tops here.”

Now, please don’t misunderstand me; these feelings of intimidation did not incite religious hatred nor strong desires to assert my identity as a British/Northern Irish Protestant (though I’m pretty sure those things would be low on my list of identity definers if they made it at all!).  It was simply a reaction to the association with a ‘side’ that has become common in Northern Ireland.  Like, even seeing a huge Union Jack flying outside a house last week put me on my guard…

…then I remembered I was in England.

Back in the leisure centre up the road, though, I was feeling uncomfortable – but I didn’t really think too much about it until I realised I was wearing my Christian “CSSM” t-shirt.  Why, if I could wear that, could they not wear their Gaelic tops?  Why did it matter?

Basically, it shouldn’t matter – and in terms of my feelings of non-hatred for people from a Roman Catholic background it doesn’t matter!  Rather, it seems to be that I am a victim (awww poor me! 😉 ) of the culture of bigotry I’ve grown up in – not from my family’s influence, but more I guess the divided school system, the eventful news, the ‘no football tops’ signs over bowling alley doors… 

Meaning that, rather than a sports tops reflecting an enjoyment of the sport or a flag being a symbol of wholesome patriotism, I have grown up interpreting these things as a political statement:

“This is who I am and if you’re different, you’re my enemy.”

If that’s me, from a middle of the road un-bigoted Christian family, I can only imagine the depth to which such lies run amongst those for whom painting curb stones and hanging flags is an ‘innocent’ past-time…

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Christmas Cards and Bullet holes.

3365858.jpgWhen I were a gal I used to sit dutifully at my desk and write Christmas cards for all my classmates, always enjoying the ‘To Rachel, love Rachel’ and then agonising whether Neil (the boy that picked his nose AND ears with his pen) would be offended if he was the only one in the class that got ‘from Rachel’ rather than ‘love Rachel’ (incidentally, this boy would probably not even have noticed a naked elephant wearing rollerskates and carrying a Cabbage Patch Doll had delivered the card in July, never mind what it actually said).

Such were the extent of my Christmas card-writing worries until I left my primary school class of 24 (that’s people – not, like ’24 as in the year).  Then I found myself in the wider social circle of a secondary school form class of 30 AND a secondary class for art and technology of another 15 people.  So many people!  My mother, however, thought nothing of buying an extra packet of cards for a couple of years.  Lovely mum.

But then I hit 14 and suddenly found myself in, like, a million different classes with, like, a million different people and under much pressure to write and deliver, like, a million different Christmas cards.  But I did it – without resorting to carrying a box of blank cards to school in case I missed someone (I knew one boy who,when given a card, would actually whip out a blank card and write it to you right there in front of you – not quite the spirit of it all, eh?  We were just relieved that was all he was whipping out…).

Perhaps it was this early slavish adherence to card-giving that has turned me into a veritable card Scrooge.  I’m not sure when it began, but my aptitude for keeping track of the politics of card-reciprocity (cf why-not-smile!) made a rather speedy descent into complete non-givingness to the point where I have a heap of well-intentioned unwritten Christmas cards hidden in a drawer.  In recent years, I’m afraid I must admit, I have done all but mutter ‘Bah Humbag’ at the tradition I once revered.

But the proverbial ghosts of Christmas cards Passed, Presented and Yet to Come have been haunting me these past few days.  Again and again I get a sense of ‘Awww! How nice of them to think of me!’ as I open cards from Lisburn, Manchester, Maynooth…

Then the guilts set in.

My set-jawed refusal to join the arena of Christmas card politics means that I don’t offend anyone (I offend everyone) but I also don’t let anyone know that I’m thinking of them or appreciate their friendship and that is rubbish.

I am rubbish.

Its pretty late in the day to discover that I have a conscience about these things as the last day to post cards was two days ago, and I’m certain that cyber-greetings won’t quite cut it in the same sort of way.  So, unlike Dickens’ Scrooge, I am left without time to right my wrongs and salvage my soul from its misdemeanours.  All I can do is write a blog about it and hope that you feel sorry enough for me to forgive me.

For those who aren’t convinced, you might want to watch out – I happen to be an excellent shot with a rifle.

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