Once Upon A Time In America
By: Martin Griffin
Once Upon A Time In America" was the name of a rather long feature film starring Robert Deniro. I think it is also a fitting title for an essay preface remembering people having the ability to support causes that had meaning to them. Everything from saving whales, trees or snail darters, had a group looking to provide for their survival and maintenance. The broad Manhattan avenue fronting the United Nations has been the scene of every conceivable demonstrative combination, pro and con, from both sides of the Palestinian Israeli conflict, Cuba and Castro, freeing Tibet, there was even an anti-nuclear group called the "Shad Alliance" who demonstrated at New York’s Shoreham nuclear plant.
As an aging post WWII "baby-boomer" I grew up in a time of civil unrest. When protests were more frequent on college campuses than football games. As a kid I liked: Making money on my paper routes (NY Daily News, Long Island Star Journal); My Keyfood grocery delivery job; baseball and girls, in that order. After a while the girls and baseball switched places on my priority list and now I find that, lo, after all these many years they have switched places back again.
One of the consequences of being a kid with two paper routes, besides being occasionally stiffed for three weeks to a month worth of papers and early morning effort, was being aware of some of the world’s ugliness at a young age. I recall in 1968 seeing the front page picture of Martin Luther King's aides pointing out the trajectory of the bullet that took his life, as well as Robert Kennedy struggling during his last earthly moments on the hotel kitchen floor.
I also became increasingly aware that Ireland, the land that my grand and great-grandparents had come from, was not a free country. I started to read names of people dying there that were the same names as the kids I played ball with, and the girls catching my increasing attention on my block. Sometimes on the evening news a picture would fill the screen of a dead youngster killed by a British bullet who looked eerily like a kid down the street, freckles and all.
America, the melting pot, was a forum and world stage for grievances of every variety. People of diverse ethnicities after settling here did not forget the loved ones and compatriots they left behind. Everything from fund raising, to agitating for human rights, relaxed immigration policies, and improved living conditions for those back home, were normal commonplace occurrences in the New York City of my youth. I became personally involved in Ireland’s cause.
Unfortunately that has all changed. Not that anyone misses the civil unrest, riots, or traffic jams from protests. It's the inability to support causes of long standing in America. It’s the guilt by association that new laws induce. The Irish-American involvement in the 800-year Irish struggle for independence is now regulated in America by the same legislation used to suppress support of Al Qaeda.
There are people who will ask me what is the difference. First, Al Qaeda has attacked America, not only at home but also at American installations the world over. Next it desires to install upon every nation once conquered by Muslim arms throughout history, the rule of the Caliph, an office that the Turk's were last in possession of when they abandoned it.
Any Muslim nation that desires to live under the Caliphate once the Ummah re-establishes that benefice and chooses its occupant should have the right to do so. Equally those nations who choose not to; and those nations such as Spain or "Iberia" -- during its time of Islamic domination -- would and should have the right to choose their present condition. Those who engage in Jihad for the restoration of the Caliphate need to convince their brethren of its necessity first.
My intention is not to write about, denigrate or exhibit my knowledge of historical and theological Islam. Although I have studied the Quran and several of the A Hadith as well as more modern biographies on the Prophet Muhammad; my intention is to write about Ireland and why supporting the cause of Irish freedom is in no wise similar to supporting Islamic Jihad.
The people of Ireland have historically wished to discontinue any connection with the group of nations known as the United Kingdom. They have wished to establish the sovereignty of the entire island of Ireland under a representative government of the entire Irish people. They have no desire to interfere in the affairs of any other nation; and despite having a national history extending back nearly two-thousand years have never had enmity or conflict with any other nation except England; and that only in response to England’s continuing interference with the natural human right of the Irish to live freely and peacefully in their own land.
On September 11 2001 the United States was attacked by an Islamic Jihadist conglomeration under the spiritual and financial guidance of Osama Bin Laden. There were several targets slated for attack, three were successfully hit, a fourth jet was downed by the valiant efforts of the passengers on board, who rather than dying as living missiles aimed against their countrymen knowingly chose to end their lives in the seclusion of a Pennsylvania field.
To keep the record straight, my eldest daughter was an employee of a retailer with a store on the concourse of the World Trade Center complex. The night previous, 9/10/01, late in the evening I phoned my daughter requesting her to accompany me to the hospital emergency room the following morning due to the fact that as a result of my affliction I had again developed pneumonia and was having difficulty breathing. My daughter who was twenty-five at the time was on the trains and busses from Flushing to Sunnyside Queens at the moment of the World Trade Center attack rather than already being on her job for an hour.
My at that time soon to be ex-wife of nearly thirty years had a brother-in-law employed as a trader for Cantor Fitzgerald on the hundred and fifth floor that fateful day, at age thirty-eight he was among the 658 Cantor Fitzgerald employees who perished that day, he left behind an infant son and a grieving widow.
The laws written as a result of that mournful day have had a very negative effect on patriotic Irish-American people who always had a concern for the plight of the people who remained in their ancestral homeland, as well as their love for their American homeland.
The Saint Patrick Day Parades in Boston, 271-years running and New York a 247-year tradition, were combined religious festivals and political actions in show of support for the Irish in Ireland. It should be recalled that those parades were held during the hard times of Theobald Wolfe Tone's expeditions with the revolutionary forces of Republican France 1798, during: the infamous Act of Union, 1801, the years of An Gorta Mor, the great hunger, or Irish potato famine, 1845 -1850, that not only starved one million or more men, women, and children to death, but exiled a further estimated two-million to swell the ranks of the very parades referenced in this paragraph. The parades continued to grow during various uprisings of the mid and late nineteenth century; the Young Irelanders, 1848, Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Fenians, 1867, and we haven't even touched on the cataclysmic events of the twentieth century.
The newly enacted laws have basically stated to Irish-Americans that if they support the groups they had always found necessary for aiding in the defense of nationalists and their neighborhoods and were also politically valuable in representing the Nationalist political agenda they would be criminal abettors of terrorism. That, combined with Britain’s manipulation of the urgent desire for peace of the Irish Nationalist population of Northern Ireland, and their American supporters into an underhanded agreement where each side was told in private sessions that the process would lead to the eventuality they had been seeking, an Ireland United and Free on the one hand, or that they could remain British for the Loyalists, has caused many former Irish-American activists to identify themselves and their years of effort as failures.
These very Loyalists who when negotiating during an earlier round of preliminary talks between their representatives and select members of the Republican movement chose Eire Nua, the political program of Republican Sinn Fein as their second choice of a governing structure if they could not make the truncated Northern Ireland statelet into an independent nation. Most experts conclude that Northern Ireland even with the billions Britain pours into the province yearly and the trillions historically is a failed entity with virtually no chance of being a success as an independent entity.
Support of the sole organization -- Republican Sinn Fein and their Eire Nua program -- that Loyalists and Nationalists alike concluded had a proposal that had the potential for peaceful resolution of sectarian partition, can threaten your being labeled a supporter of a foreign terrorist organization, subject to whatever criminal and civil penalties apply. Republican Sinn Fein is for the record a legal political party in Ireland
The British maintain the position that they have given their word to the Loyalist minority of Ireland not to abandon them if the "Loyalist Majority" in their gerrymandered and cherry picked districts wish to remain dependent on the help of British might in the continuance of the crime against the Irish people of depriving them of their language, culture, heritage, their right to work, prosper, enjoy the usufruct of natures bounty, and educate their children about the thousands of years of Celtic/Irish history in their part of the Irish island.
Historically the law recognizes no obligation to enforce or sustain an illegal contract. The usurer cannot collect his excessive interest or the bookmaker his wagers, due to the initial illegality of the contract. The law will also not protect one criminal from another; i.e. one crook can not sue another for recovery of ill gotten gains, the law will also not protect a party who has acted in bad faith, even if part of his claim is justified and substantiated. The theory is known as having clean hands or not having dirty hands, (Clean Hands Doctrine). The law will not support the claims of any party with "Unclean Hands. The British promising to keep their word to the Loyalists which deprives the Irish people of their human and civil rights and has for 800 years is not only a legally unenforceable contract with the Unionists it is immoral.
Not only was the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and similar though smaller and splinter groups named as foreign terrorist organizations (FTO's) in the same legislation and lists proscribing Al Qaeda and similar groups; but a political party of long standing, Republican Sinn Fein, with a fully evolved political program "Eire Nua" (New Ireland) was included on the word of the very people that Eire Nua would render obsolete -- Irish and British partitionist politicians of all stripes.
Eire Nua, which calls for a four-province solution, local governing councils where local people have political power over local affairs and neither majority nor minority has the right or ability to disturb the peace of the nation by recourse to a stronger external agency with an agenda of its own. The twenty-six county government while odious to traditional republicans deserves to be recognized for its excellent record in dealing with its Protestant and other minority groups. They have fared far better than Irish Republicans historically under the 26 county regimes.
What is to be done? Do those of us long-term activists allow ourselves to suffer our setbacks as permanent defeats? Or do we remember that we support a tradition where defeats have led to glorious victories? Technically, Wolfe Tone, Young Ireland, The Irish Republican Brotherhood, The Fenians, and even the heroes of 1916 failed. Michael Collins failed.
As Patrick Pearse said during his court martial for his role in the 1916 uprising: " I have worked for Irish freedom. I have helped to organize, to arm, to train, and to discipline my fellow countrymen to the sole end that, when the time came, they might fight for Irish freedom. The time, as it seemed to me, did come and we went into the fight. I am glad that we did, we seem to have lost, we have not lost. To refuse to fight would have been to lose, to fight is to win, we have kept faith with the past, and handed a tradition to the future"…**
It is time to get back to basics. Time to re-educate ourselves. Educating is akin to arming. Read any of the hundreds of books on all phases of the republican struggle. Read the Life of Wolfe Tone, on line @ Google Books or purchase a copy. Read Paddy's Lament and get angry, and/or the tome the History of the Irish Race, which while being something of an abridgment of our history, from Fionn, CuChullain, Maeve, Niall of the nine hostages, Daniel O'Connell, Parnell, 1916, the IRA etc. is complete enough to remind you not only of the greatness of the Irish Race and its culture, but of the heretofore successful struggle and sufferings to continue our existence as a people, and despite the setbacks how successful we have actually been against the greatest of odds.
The one thing that the British have failed to do to assure an end to 800 years of conflict, the only thing that could ever bring that end to fruition, despite false promises, manipulating peace processes, and populations, deceiving and suppressing the national and foreign press, and world institutions, is to leave Irish soil and never return. As long as they neglect that as the solution, the longer their forces will be at war with the people of Ireland, wherever they may be, regardless of how many relatively quiet intervals there may be between battles.
In the mean time we can and must change the negative designations of our political organizations through political pressure, letter writing, petitions, support of sympathetic candidates etc. The Internet adds a dimension to the struggle that was never had before. We not only have the ability to communicate instantly among ourselves but we can inundate politicians and institutions with e-mails, e-petitions, where you type your name click and forward, it has actually never been easier. You can start today by joining the National Irish Freedom Committee, (Cumann Na Saoirse Naisiunta), Website: www.irishfreedom.net reading their website content and starting again from where you left off.
** Quoted from the Wikipedia article on Patrick Pearse.