Unjustified and Unjustifiable: Bloody Sunday 40 years later

Bishop Edward Daily waves a blood stained white handkerchief as he leads a group trying to move fatally wounded Jackie Duddy to safety.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.  On January 30th, 1972 thousands marched in Derry/Londonderry for civil rights, protesting against the then common practice of internment without trial.  British soldiers of the elite parachute regiment fired live rounds at innocent marchers, killing fourteen people. The British government tried to justify the murders by labeling the victims as gunmen and terrorists.

The march has continued each year on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, remembering the dead and seeking truth and justice.  Lord Saville’s inquiry, lasting twelve years, was finally released June 15th, 2010.  The report acknowledged the innocence of the victims on Bloody Sunday and Prime Minister David Cameron apologized for the “unjustified and unjustifiable” killings.  The report as well as the apology by David Cameron were celebrated joyously, bringing a long  awaited sense of vindication.

39th Anniversary march

With their loved ones names finally cleared, most of the victims’ families felt the march did not need to continue; last year’s march would be the last.  I walked with the people of Derry that day and saw a solemn dignity and weary relief.  The march usually stopped at the Free Derry corner, as the first march had, but this time most completed the intended original route to the Guildhall.

While it is obvious that significant steps have recently been made in dealing with the huge legacy of the events of that day, how to move forward now is less clear.  Despite the important sense of acknowledgment and “vindication”,  several of the victim’s family members felt it was important to continue the march.  And so, a smaller group continued that commemoration yesterday.

That community continues to grapple with their needs for truth and justice, their hopes to heal and their strong desire to do right by their loved ones lost.  Similar needs and questions exist around the country as a new juncture is approaching in dealing with a difficult and ever-present past.

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The Journey is the Destination

We look ahead to the future as we set goals and create opportunities.   In doing so, it is easy to look past the road we take to get there.  My softest, most tattered T-shirt says, “The Journey is the Destination.”  It is a great reminder to focus on the present and enjoy the ride.

Allow yourself to head off somewhere without a plan.  Pick a beautiful rural area, a new city or even a part of town you don’t frequent. Go on foot, by car, on bike; whatever your transportation, head out without a destination and choose the direction you feel drawn to at each juncture.  If you are with others, take turns picking directions.  Explore, and let go of any need to head someplace practical or expedient-just enjoy yourself.

I went to the train station this fall with a friend. We did not have a destination but caught the next train. We ended up having a nice day exploring a town called Newry, on the border between County Armagh and County Down.

This is great training for becoming more adventurous and for following your intuition.  There is typically little at stake as you choose each turn allowing you to listen to your preferences without second guessing yourself.  This fall, I found myself struggling to make decisions.  I had lost confidence in my own intuition.  I slowly retrained myself to listen to and trust my intuition, by giving it full autonomy in small matters.  When the stakes were small, I would quickly make decisions from my gut.  Now, when the decisions matter I will be more confident following my intuition wherever it may lead me.

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Returning to Glencree

Tomorrow, I am headed back to Glencree in the Wicklow Mountains.  I’ll be spending a week focused on conflict resolution in comparative peace processes.  Right out of college I interned at the Glencree Centre for Reconciliation.  My time there facilitating the Peace Education program and participating in other aspects of the centre’s work helped shape my interest in conflict resolution. Together with my good friends Shane and Will, we made a long awaited return.  On a clear day this past October we biked up from Dublin.  It has changed significantly but still felt familiar and full of good memories.  We remembered and celebrated the life and tremendous impact of our friend Brendan.  We met the current volunteers and got the full update on life at the centre.

There are journeys, perhaps most, where you circle back to a familiar place-the starting point, a resting place, someplace that pointed you along your way.  The return, which can be a coming home is not the same.  You are not the same.  I think this is true for ideas as well.  There can be a deepening that makes your return something new.  Shortly after my visit with Shane and Will, I went back for a class on Conflict Transformation focusing primarily on Storytelling workshops; one of our lecturers had visited Wooster my senior year.  Wilhelm’s visit prompted my internship at Glencree.  The work he was doing with dialogue, peacemaking and using wilderness for reconciliation tugged at the interests I was exploring.  While I was volunteering at Glencree I first heard of the program I am doing now and had it in the back of my mind from that point on.  This year my course work for that program has drawn me back to Glencree.  In seminars with Wilhelm at Glencree it felt, in many ways, things had come full circle.

I am looking forward to this week. I am hoping to come away with many insights on international peace process.  Also, it is lambing season; there is something incredibly tranquil about a newborn lamb grazing on the deep green pastures of the Wicklow hills.

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Budget Adventure

This time last year, I found myself with major cash and adventure deficiencies. Though my income was not easily changed, there was nothing standing in the way of adventure.  I started taking steps to have more adventures and wrote what became a little budget adventure guide.  It was intended just for me, to help change my perspective and to get me writing.  No doubt, as I look at it again I will see many ways in which my attitude and situation have changed since then.  For one, I am fortunate to be getting many chances to travel this year.  I have recently been to Reykjavik and London, Dublin and Derry and I live in Belfast.  Still, it will reflect thoughts I had not all that long ago.  I will be posting some of them here.  Mainly, it will give me something new to post when I have not had a chance to write anything.  Hopefully, it will also spark some adventures for you.

My adventure level has been dangerously low lately.  As I take stock of things I love-things that bring me joy- I realize I have been on fewer adventures lately than normal.  Adventures fill my blood with spirit and give me renewed excitement for life.  Adventures are for me, what the sweet smell of a steady spring rain is to a farmer, what a baby’s smile is for a mother- a source of life, hope and strength.  When I look back at each year, it is inevitably the adventures that stick out most clearly in my memory (and in my expenses).  In my budget this year, travel is a smaller piece of a smaller pie.  I imagine the friend’s wedding in Lima I won’t be attending, the reunion in Ireland that will happen without me and the New Year’s celebration in Guatemala that I reluctantly passed up.  Yet, as much as I love to travel, it is not necessary for adventure.  Life is an adventure and each day has the potential to be exciting-to discover the excitement and wonder that are already before us.

Since we do not need travel for adventure, we don’t need to save up lots of money or to wait for a vacation.  The journey begins right now- it always does.  It is in this moment that life happens.  Now is when we become who we want to be.  Now is when we find the life that we want to live.  If life is to be exciting, it cannot wait until we are retired on plenty of money.  It begins with a new openness to the possibility of each moment.  Adventure is not dependent on money but rather on how you approach life.

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A New Month

Two months into 2011, I suspect many of us have abandoned or maybe even forgotten what we resolved to do in the new year.  If nothing else, New Year’s resolutions are a yard stick by which we measure our shortcomings. We set unrealistic goals with few, if any, concrete steps to achieve them.

There are implicit values in the celebration of the New Year that I appreciate: a new beginning, growth and an emphasis on the possibility and importance of change.  Much of this is manifest commercially- health clubs offering “a new you”. Many people attempt to make important personal changes.  Yet, how many people achieve their resolution? How many diets are abandoned or health club memberships unused already?  It is not that we are undisciplined and unwilling to change (well, some of the time it is).  I think the problem lies in the poor strategies we employ to pursue our goals.  The very format of the resolution sets us up to fail. I appreciate thinking big, but a year is an impractically long time to resolve to do or not do something.

What if instead we imagined the person we want to be and the future we want to live?  What if we set realistic steps towards achieving our goals and acted with determination and also self-compassion?  Many people have experience from their work in creating and pursuing strategic goals.  A look at any productivity system will show the importance of breaking projects into smaller steps. We need small manageable steps to make progress towards our larger goals. Last year, I began making January resolutions, inspired by the happiness project and pushed on by the recognition that each day holds the potential for transformation. On March 1st, I’ll be setting new goals for the month, some of the old ones will continue and those that were ineffective or that I ignored will be abandoned. What do you want to accomplish in March?

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My life in Belfast

Here is a bit about my life in Belfast.

My program is based in Belfast, though I am a Trinity College Dublin student.  Our portion of the Irish School of Ecumenics has a small centre on the Antrim Road in North Belfast. It is at the base of Cave hill, a beautiful and historic spot. It is thought to be where, in 1795, Theobald Wolfe Tone and the Irish Republican Brotherhood made their vows to the Irish cause.  It also may have been a source of inspiration for Gulliver’s Travels.  It is a great hike with a view of Belfast, and on a clear day, of Scotland.

I live just a couple blocks from the Botanic Gardens and the Queens University library and gym. I often cut through the Botanic gardens passing the lawn bowling green, the rose gardens, and then detouring on a secluded path through some heavy vegetation.

The course work is really interesting. I found it hard to decide on the required three courses per semester and so have been overloading.  Michaelmas term (fall), I took:

  • Conflict Analysis and Intervention
  • Dynamics of Reconciliation
  • Reconciliation in Northern Ireland
  • Community Learning and Reflective Practice
  • Conflict Resolution Skills
  • Research Skills
  • Conflict Transformation

This semester (Hilary term) I am taking:

  • Theology of Reconciliation,
  • Post-Conflict Justice and Truth Commissions,
  • South Africa: Ethics of Truth and Reconciliation
  • Comparative Peace Processes
  • Community Learning and Reflective Practice cont.

I have questioned if it is wise to be taking so many classes, but I only have one year here to take in as much as I can.  So far I am keeping up.

As a Trinity Student in Belfast I miss much of the tradition and fanfare of a Trinity education. Trinity was founded in 1592.  There is a lot of history within those campus walls. Yet, the trip down to Dublin is just a couple hours and I try to go occasionally to experience the Trinity campus, use school resources and to see my friend Shane.  I have a class down there next week, and will be there again for St Patrick’s day.

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a beginning (finally)

I created this blog in the fall as I was headed off on a new adventure. I was packing up my life in Washington, DC and moving to Belfast, Northern Ireland. I am studying at Trinity College Dublin for a Masters of Philosophy in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation. Since then, this blog has gone unused and I have otherwise been very bad about staying in touch; I am not sure where to begin. In case I fail in future efforts to share some of the significant moments and themes from the last five months, here is a word cloud with some of the concepts and themes from my studies so far. It is just a taste and only even touches on the Reconciliation portion of the program. I hope it gives you a sense for how I have been spending much of my time and thought. Don’t worry, I have made it to many of the pubs here in Belfast, too.

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