The Civil Rights Movements in Ireland and America

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Fall Road is deserted. Only a few dirt-caked, barefoot, Irishmen can be seen shivering in the adjacent park. We walk past the Catholic neighborhoods knowing, at any moment, buildings might explode and automatic weapon fire could lacerate the air on every side of us. Belfast is charming, apart from the harsh reality of guerrilla warfare and terrorism being common occurrences. For the first time, throughout my three month tour of seventeen different European countries, I feel truly threatened. The tension carries itself into a nearby pub where an old man asks “Are you jus daft? Or do ya have relatives here?” His words hinted at my grandfather's blunt, yet kindly, expression concerning his birthplace in N. Ireland, “If you haven't been there yet, don't go there.” I can remember the lyrics of a Naughty by Nature song blaring over my car radio, “If you have never been to the ghetto, don't ever come to the ghetto,” as I put in a tape. My thought stream continues as it takes me to another place where guerrilla warfare and terrorism are a part of daily life. The gunshots and unruly pitbull barking registers over the calm of the wet playground. Trash strings the streets and every dwelling has an eight foot, black, metal fence circuitously about it. Two white faces gape over the hood of a parked Cadillac. Besides the police parked down the block, they are probably the only Caucasians in a five mile square radius. Two companies of drug dealers fire at will scrambling for control of a superior capital making outpost. Even at nine o'clock in the morning the combat tract roars on. I was one of those faces peering over the car hood with horror and revolution in my eyes. N. Richmond is a product of the same type of oppression and violence that hacks deep into the people of N. Ireland. In the logical evolution of an oppressed people a civil rights movement was essential. “It was necessary to bravely confront our most explosive issues as a people: Racial[religious, gender, class...] hierarchy and the maldistribution of wealth and power.” 1If only for a brief moment we achieved this, at least it happened. We must study the past in order to get to the future. If you don't know where you came from, how can you possibly figure out where you are going and that is why many people stay rooted in the same place. For centuri... ... middle of paper ... ...yone must be willing to walk down it . Only the people of today can change things for the better. History simply shows us how the problem(s) came into being and how the people became what they are. Other disciplines such as psychology, sociology, economics, and even plain common sense may help but in the end human beings in society, as in their private lives, have to work thing out for themselves. We all have a measure choice when it comes to altering their own personal lives. If blame is to be appointed for today's situation in Ireland as well as America, it should be laid not on the heads of men of today but of history. If a personal villain is sought then perhaps it should be placed on the successive governments of Britain and America who, racked by past events, aborted their responsibilities in Northern Ireland and the ghettos of America. We are all prisoners of history and the views we have learned from it. History is a difficult prison to escape from and the history of America and Ireland are as difficult as any. The Civil Rights Movements were a brief moment of looking past prison walls and coming to the realization of change. But it didn't last long.

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