Comparisons to The Troubles

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One of the many Peace Walls in Belfast. It is covered in graffiti and signatures of visitors, many of who hope for peace.

Comparisons to The Troubles

By Allison Mazur

May 16, 2016

While learning about The Troubles for the past few days in Belfast, I have tried to mentally equate it to other conflicts. It’s a tale as old as time – two nearby communities coming into conflict with each other.

Originally I had compared it to the United States Civil War; the Confederacy (South) was fighting for their independence from the United States, while the Union (North) wanted to retain all of the states. As for The Troubles, the Unionists (predominantly Protestants) wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom but the Nationalists (mainly Catholics) wanted Ireland to stay an independent country.

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The other side of the Peace Wall, which does not have graffiti, but in its place a memorial garden for people who died in the conflict.

Part of the issue is that both sides feel so strongly because religion is involved. Religion is an extremely strong social identity that most people do not budge on. Religion is often ingrained and practiced from birth, typically determining your priorities and values. Religion also can dictate who you associate with, and become romantically involved with. It is a strong identity, which is what continues to polarize both sides.

Remember Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches? This was another conflict I came to equate The Troubles to. The star-bellied Sneetches believed they were superior to the plain-bellied Sneetches. Both sides held these strong identities that created problems between the groups.

It’s so easy to view this conflict from an American lens, and simply say it should be resolved and put to rest. However, we do not live here and did not grow up in this environment. You can’t just come in and say this should change, and that should be fixed, and the Peace Walls should come down. We cannot understand the depth of this issue after two tours of the area. It runs much deeper than a wall dividing two communities – it’s part of people’s identities. While we hope for the situation to change in the near future, it has to happen organically, it cannot be forced.

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My message on the peace wall – “Open your arms & hearts.”

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