Growing up Nationalist – growing old laughing

I really hope people from both Unionist and Nationalist backgrounds read this. No insults intended. If you feel offended, could it be that your identity is telling you that you’re supposed to be?

Hands up: my bias is toward Irish Nationalism, but in no way do I ever support violence

Social media: one minute I feel like I’m smack-dab in the middle of Northern Irish politics, the next, my keyboard hackles go up when a Unionist types something I find condescending. It’s flippin visceral. And it needs to go away. I don’t even want to be a Nationalist. Alas, a little cultural tradition goes a long way.

I moved here when I was 14. My late stepdad was a Catholic from Ballymurphy. I’m sure I’ve said all this before. Anyway, he and the rest of my stepfamily used lots of colourful language when it came to the Queen and Co. I was a teenager looking to fit in, the new kid in a republicanish council estate, attending a Catholic secondary school. Now I’m in my 40s. A tad more patient – wiser perhaps. But occasionally my Nationalist hackles still rise! Something became ingrained. (I can only imagine what it’s like for someone else in their 40s, living here their entire life. Must be like tearing strips from their soul.)

I saw a certain Loyalist Twitterite saying that Republican reactions to the Ballynafeigh incident on March 29th show us that sectarianism is alive and well. It’s a good point, I’ll give them that. If the reaction to your problem is Serves you right, you would feel alienated.

BUT

All this person needs to do is visit Facebook, and read comments on ‘Proud to be a Protestant Banter’, and ‘Protestant Coalition’, to witness some shining examples of Loyalist sectarianism at its most unspellable. To me, the aforementioned tweet read a bit like… Republicans are keeping sectarianism alive.

Who’s the guiltiest? Repubs or Loyals?

When you really think about it oh who cares.

I’m not REALLY a Nationalist. Or Republican. I’m not even a fully-fledged Catholic. I’m a bunch of stuff, not just a single identity. But for the sake of an easy read, let’s bundle all those identities into one: I’m someone who can’t stand the old-school Protestant land for a Protestant people/contractarian/DUP/Orange Order/Loyalist hate-cannons… I’m a non-Orange… A peacenik, hippie, equality-for-all norange.

We noranges should know better. We’re supposed to know what it’s like to be second-class citizens. God knows we’ve heard enough sob stories and cry-into-your-beer songs. Okay, so we’ve been kicked, and punched, and shot at dawn. Should we exact revenge? Nope. We shouldn’t perpetuate unfairness. We should be bigger and better than anyone who says Serves you right.

When I was a teenager I remember thinking that if Catholics ever got control of the place, they would do well to remember what it’s like to feel downtrodden. I still feel that way: With great power comes… Don’t make me quote Spiderman’s uncle.

Noranges are growing in visibility and influence. And how are we doing? Orange marchers and flute bands feel like the police are coming down heavy. The same people feel there should be a police presence when masked men march down the street. Can’t argue with the second point. I find these masked men sinister. We noranges need to infiltrate the boring old Cat/Nat/Repub (Catnatlican?) narrative – change the record. Be different. Be better.

As for sectarian Protestants/Unionists/Loyalists… Well, Nationalists just expect dogs to bark. Not everyone who’s a P, a U, or an L pukes illegible hate, but those who do it, do it like it’s the natural order. You need to stop – regardless of who you think started whatever got started.

From there, what’s the answer? FuckedifIknow. But if I may…

They say “It’s funny because it’s true.” Maybe humour will help us escape the cycle: victim culture, blame, retribution… I reckon if you’re willing to accept that certain stereotypes about you are true, you can laugh at them, and begin closing the rift between cultures, whether you’re a norange, Evergreen, or Überprod. Just have a word with yourself. A chuckle even. Stop taking your identity seriously. You probably didn’t choose it. My Nationalist soul – that sad little candle flickering shadows on Mary’s chipped face – my Nationalist identity was set in front of me like hot porridge and I gobbled it up. Nowadays I wish I didn’t spit porridge when a Unionist says all Catholics eat Protestant babies.

I should know better than to get riled. It’s up to me to adopt new thinking. Nobody – NOBODY – is out there instructing me on how I should think or act. I’m not a kid anymore. I’m responsible for myself. We all need to remember we’re not shackled to our identities. We can change any time.

 

Feature image: Strongbow and Aoife, National Gallery of Ireland

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