The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Loyal to What

 

Fred A. Wilcox • 17 May 2006

A friend emails a photograph of Michael Mcllveen, murdered, say the papers, by a gang of "loyalists." I look at this boy and wonder what he was like. Did he enjoy football, a good sing-a-long, nights out with his friends? Did he have a girlfriend? What were his hopes and dreams? Was he planning to attend college? Did he want to be a teacher, a doctor, lawyer, writer, perhaps a politician? What wonderful gifts might this fifteen-year-old boy have given the world, if only he'd managed to survive the hatred that took his life?

I look at Michael and see an American kid a long time ago. He's standing on a street corner with his friends, when gang of angry men appear carrying clubs, chains, and knives." "We want to kill some white mother f…er," they scream. The kid tries to run but stumbles and they smash their clubs over his head, shred his winter jacket with their knives, stab him in the face, and shatter his teeth. He awakens in the emergency ward surrounded by friends vowing revenge. They will find the people who attacked me. They will make those animals pay. They will kill them.

Looking at a photograph of a kid who lived and died in Belfast, N. Ireland, I experience the terror he must have felt, knowing that his attackers were determined to murder him. I also recall that while recovering from the attempt on my life, I decided not to take revenge. Why, I asked myself, attack people whose ancestors had been enslaved for centuries? Why assault people who'd been burned out of their homes, lynched, raped, robbed, tormented, and tortured by bigots and racists? I realized the men who assaulted me weren't just trying to kill an unarmed white man; they were attacking police brutality, poverty, menial jobs, endless insults and humiliations, relentless discrimination.

Who were the people who attacked Michael Mcllveen? Had they suffered from discrimination, poverty, and brutality for hundreds of years? Were they victims of a racist system that had destroyed generations of their family? According to the news accounts of this attack, the perpetrators were "loyalists," but what does that possibly mean? Is it possible to be loyal to hatred and violence? Would any rational person admit that they are "loyal" to the act of murder?

I am aware that residents of N. Ireland do not agree on whether that part of the world belongs to Ireland or Britain. And I have seen first-hand the terrible scars people on both sides of the sectarian divide carry from thirty-five years of warfare. Still, I fail to understand what motivates people to maim and kill innocent kids like Michael Mcllveen. To what cause, to what belief system, and to what future are the people who commit such brutal crimes "loyal?"

The men who attacked me so many years ago had no right to do that. But I came to understand their hatred for a race of people that, nearly one hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation, continued to treat them like slaves. Once they were caught, these hoodlums did not claim to be acting out of some bizarre loyalty to God and country. They did not argue that they were trying to express their devotion to some great cause. They hated white people because we hated them. Simple and frightening as that.

I cannot understand why anyone would call gang bangers who attack innocent people "loyalists." In the United States, we have a special category for crimes committed solely because of the victim's skin color, religion, or sexual preference. These assaults are called "hate crimes." It makes no difference whether the attackers are democrats, republicans, communists, or anarchists. It doesn't matter whether their skin is white, black, or brown. No one really cares whether people who commit hate crimes call themselves Christians, Muslims, Hindus, or Jews. Yes, there might be mitigating circumstances-poverty, addiction, mental illness-but the courts would refuse to listen, even for a moment, to a defendant who argued that their violent actions were motivated by "loyalty" to some grand ideal.

Throughout the world, human beings are killing one another in order to express their loyalty to some particular cause. In some places, oppressed people are forced to pick up the gun. But attacking an unarmed kid on the streets of Belfast is the work of cowards, not courageous freedom fighters who know the difference between a just cause and gratuitous violence.

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Index: Current Articles



28 May 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Humpty Dumpty
Anthony McIntyre

1981
Eamon Sweeney

Political Status
Geoffrey Cooling

Enough, Enough of Stormont
David Adams

Joined at the Hip
John Kennedy

Loyal to What
Fred A Wilcox

No Rest In Peace
John Kennedy

'Penetrated' Has Become the Sinn Fein Brand Mark
Anthony McIntyre

Code Red
Dr John Coulter

Review of the Field Day Review 1: Debut Issue, 2005
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Profile: Salman Rushdie
Anthony McIntyre

Freedom of Speech index


16 May 2006

'The Blanket' meets 'Blanketmen'
Anthony McIntyre speaks with Richard O'Rawe

Former Blanketman Speaks Out Against ‘Vitriolic Attack’
Richard O'Rawe

"What Future for Republicans?"
Public Meeting Announcement

An Open Letter to Gerry Adams and the IRA's Chief of Staff of the Army Council
Dr John Coulter

Paper Over the Cracks
John Kennedy

The Famine Season
Russell Streur

DUP Pressure Cooker: About to Blow?
Dr John Coulter

Oil Prices
John Kennedy

Profile: Ibn Warraq
Anthony McIntyre

The Muslims America Loves
M. Shahid Alam

Freedom of Speech index

 

 

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