“Nationality is respectable only when it is on the defence, when it is waging wars of liberation it is sacred; when those of domination it is accursed.”
Growing up in Cork, as I did, tribal loyalties and nationality were as straightforward as it comes. I was from Cork and from Ireland and I loved Cork and Ireland and knew that they were the best places in the world, ever. This despite being of stock with roots in Dublin, Belfast, deepest rural Roscommon, and yeah, England.
Living briefly in Birmingham and then in Tanzania made my sense of nationality all the more entrenched. No-one sported more green than me on St. Patrick's Day, no-one thrilled to the exploits of the Irish team in Italia '90 more than me. I learned of them weeks after the fact, through cuttings from the Irish Times my grandfather posted us. Weeks later. That may seem antiquated beyond belief, but there it is, that's how it was.
Katrina, an older Australian girl, once took a handful of rough, small stones and scrubbed furiously at my neck with them as punishment for claiming that photographic evidence from our homelands proved that the Irish rugby players of the 1991 World Cup squad were clearly better-looking than the Aussie Rules players of the same vintage. An admittedly bold statement, born out of a blend of national pride and awkward nine year-old flirting, I guess.
Flash-forward, if you will, twenty years, and I am slinking away from my workplace on Dame Street, my efforts to teach having been hampered all morning by soundchecks for the Jedward/Obama extravaganza due to take place later on. Every other person is going in the opposite direction. An admirable man is going to take to the stage, and everyone will describe him as "inspirational", even if he merely makes farty noises with his armpits for five minutes. He is an intelligent man, vastly preferable to the idiotfuck who preceded him, but our desire to be loved by him means there does not appear to be so much as one voice of dissent at the visit of a man who presides over the most capitalist country in the world, a country of relentless cultural imperialism, a country still embroiled in two unnecessary wars whose only tangible upshots of any kind have been the violent deaths of two tyrants.
I forget about it for a while (and you should too, for this post is not about anti-Americanism or anti-Obamism) and listen to music and read back at home, before curiosity gets the better of me and I tune in for the last few minutes of his speech. I can't have been the only one cringing at the squalls of approval every time Barack Obama says the words 'Ireland' or 'Irish', can I? And the squeals of delight when he utters a few words in 'Gaelic', before rapidly translating them into English, because Barack Obama and his scriptwriters are savvy enough to know most of us, me included, are proud that we have a national language but not proud enough to learn to speak it? Our Taoiseach (who apparently now considers a tribute act to be an appropriate warm-up) will be making moves to lessen its usage, as soon as he thinks he can get away with it.
"Inspirational!" roared whatever chimp TV3* had anchoring their coverage. I was left feeling cold by his words, though impressed by his subsequent 15 minutes of handshakes and baby-cuddling. Perhaps missing the start of his speech meant I hadn't had the chance to get swept up in the whole thing, but what he said certainly reads an awful lot like candyfloss, designed to elicit cheers from an expectant crowds and play very, very well amongst Irish-American voters - a fairly key demographic in a country where around 20 percent of the population recently claimed they believe Obama to be a Muslim.
I'd love to feel all superior to a country with that level of fear and misinformation, but around the same percentage in Ireland are happy to proclaim in a survey that they would deny citizenship to members of the Travelling Community.
Never mind the 'death of Anglophobia' that the visit of Queen Elizabeth is purported to have brought about, we live in a country practising something akin to apartheid, and we don't talk about it. I'll say more on this another time, should cogent words come to me. We, all human beings, are born on bits of land from people most likely from some other bits of land and we put names on them, and ascribe to them characteristics and personalities that can't really exist on a geographical basis and tell ourselves that certain bits of land are better than others and draw lines in the sand and makes flags and laws and borders and piss all over each other in our haste to mark our territory. May there be no more flag-waving for me.
*I know. I hadn't realised what channel I was on for a few minutes. I suppose someone has to make them feel better about themselves.