In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, a wee story with something of an almost Irish twist. At least for those who do not understand or appreciate the difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland, there is an Irish connection. And perhaps there is in any case.
During the summer of 1980, give or take a year or two, I was in Belfast seeing the sights and enjoying a vacation among folks whose language was the same as mine. Most of the people we were hanging with were either members of the British Army or a local police force, which gave much of our sightseeing a slightly different perspective than what the ordinary tourist sees. It was a terrific good time.
The IRA was very active that summer. One of our hosts’ watering holes was firebombed while we were there. Quite a few public buildings were not open to the local population much less to tourists. The central business district of Belfast was secured by fencing with access extremely limited and tightly controlled. Armored vehicles were everywhere and heavily armed police officers conducted very efficient searches of anyone wishing to enter the central city.
Intellectually, I completely understood the need for the heavy security. The central city was target rich for terrorists. It would be irresponsible for it to be otherwise, wouldn’t it? Still, it was shocking to undergo a near strip search when entering the area the first time. This American had been cleared earlier by our hosts and given specific instructions on how to act, what to say and what to carry into the search area. To say that I was offended is an understatement when the actual procedure occurred. I just focused on getting through it unscathed. My gratitude for living in a country which did not subject her citizens to such things increased immensely.
What gave me pause was what happened the third time I went into the central city district. Having been though it several times, I certainly knew the drill. So, enter the chute, raise the arms, open the bag, and submit. Just like that. It only took a couple of times and I had adapted to an unreasonable violation of me and my dignity. It was too easy a transformation, but I continued to believe that such would not be the case were it happening in my own country.
Things have certainly changed.
Happy St Patrick’s Day to all.