On The Edge
THE man who is going to make America great again (#MAGA) isn’t the only racist around. Neither are some of his Republican appointees. Although the appointment of Steve Bannon, his senior adviser, to the National Security Council is pretty damned scary. Bannon is a former executive director of Breitbart News, which he himself once described as a platform ‘of the alt-right’. The alt-right movement is a loosely organised group, which has been associated with white nationalism and anti-Semitism. The only positive aspect of this is that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is an Orthodox Jew, as is his daughter, Ivanka.
But back closer to home. So, which one of us can stand up – hand-on-heart – and swear we never had racist feelings or even fears? I have.
I have passed black taxi drivers outside Heuston Station in favour of a gobby jackeen, who inevitably would talk the hind legs off a donkey. My excuse? He’ll have a better knowledge of the capital city.
Indeed, we don’t need to cross the Shannon to be faced with our prejudices. All we have to do is look down the road to the Travellers in our county who have been largely ghettoised in estates in Ballina, Ballinrobe and Castlebar. What chance have they of equal rights in a country where they are scoffed at and stigmatised?
REMEMBER the blanket ban imposed by the VFI (Vintners Federation of Ireland) on all Travellers who wanted to drink in Westport’s pubs back in 2002? Of course, it goes without saying that people must behave properly, adhere to the laws, show respect while in a pub for its rules and regulations and Travellers have a reputation for becoming involved in brawls when they imbibe the hard stuff. But imagine if all Achill islanders were banned from the pubs in Westport because one group of them misbehaved. Should they feel an injustice has been perpetrated against them?
So, I wonder how do those people from Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, feel about been banned from entering the US for next 80 days or so? How has Donald Trump managed to conclude that by virtue of their ethnicity and religion they are potential terrorists.
The Huffington Post recently published an interesting list of statistics, based on reputable and official sources, about violent deaths or accidents in the US. This is what it reveals over a ten-year annual average: Islamic jihadist immigrants, two deaths; far right-wing terrorists, five deaths; Islamic jihadist terrorists, including US citizens, nine deaths; armed toddlers, 21 deaths; struck by lightning, 31 deaths; accidents with lawnmowers, 69 deaths; hit by a bus, 264 deaths; fell out of bed, 737 deaths; shot dead by another American, 11,737. Wow!
Don’t the figures speak for themselves? Isn’t it rather a surprise? Do these figures not blow some of our assumptions out of the water? Of course, I know the horrific trauma of 9/11 still reverberates for the citizens of a country that has such a wonderful record of welcoming peoples from all over the world. On the other hand, it has a shameful legacy of how it treated its indigenous people, the Indians, with those who survived the massacres, herded onto reservations.
“No blacks or Irish”
MOREOVER, it is only a couple of generations ago since signs for “No blacks or Irish” were commonplace in the United Kingdom and the US. In the nineteenth century, when waves of us (like Syrians today) sought refuge on coffin ships, we were likened to simians (gorillas and monkeys) in many cartoon characterisations. Back in 2002, the controversial English journalist, Julie Burchill, narrowly escaped prosecution for incitement to racial hatred, after she wrote a column in The Guardian describing Ireland as being synonymous with ‘child molestation, Nazi-sympathising, and the oppression of women’.
On February 4, 1999, four New York policemen shot an unarmed young west African immigrant, Amadou Diallo, 41 times. All of them were acquitted of his murder.
In response, the Boss, Bruce Springsteen, wrote ‘American Skin’ which was released on his 2014 album, ‘High Hopes’. “Is it a gun, is it a knife/ Is it a wallet, this is your life/ It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)/ It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)/ No secret my friend/ You can get killed just for living in your American skin.”