I’m sitting here searching for something happy, after spending a morning looking at articles and video clips on the history of the Troubles. All of a sudden, I am very glad I was born in the eighties, in a leafy suburb of Lisburn, and was spared the huge trauma of 1970s Belfast. Of course, the problems did invade my childhood, but because I was small, things that I now realise were very dangerous for me and my family were mostly covered by my blissful ignorance.
Now, as an adult, I am realising more fully how horrific things were. Hundreds of people looked out of their high-rise flats at bomb after bomb going off in the city centre. Scores lay in their beds and jumped at the sound of gunfire on their street. They would step out their door in the mornings and not be sure that their day would be uneventful. But they still kept carrying on. I have no notion how.
Alright, so possibly those times are peetering out now, but terrifyingly, the seeds that caused them are often still there, beneath the surface. When I facilitate mutual understanding courses with students, I always feel frustrated when they tell me that there are no problems now, and then move back to stand with friends from the same background, looking across suspiciously at ‘the others’. Everything has calmed, levelled out, on the whole. However, I can’t help but feel that there is still a silent violence in most of us, and that saddens me.
Somehow, all this reading and thinking has made me want to search for the chinks of light in all of this. Perhaps, in my new story, I will find it. Watch this space!