Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Our Irish, Ourselves

I have been thinking that in some ways Ireland is a neat little microcosm of U.S. history.  Or maybe not microcosm, maybe . . .  alternate history?

I say this in part because Charles Stewart Parnell (who was half-American!) bears an uncanny resemblance to our very own William Jefferson Clinton.  Of course, whereas Parnell's career (and basically his life) were destroyed by his relationship with Katharine O'Shea, Clinton survived his indiscretions somewhat better.  But   more strikingly, Parnell's alleged link to murder in Phoenix Park is heavily reminiscent of Clinton's alleged link to the death of Vince Foster in Fort Marcy Park.  (Some may not remember how tenaciously the right wing clung to the idea that Foster was killed in a conspiracy in which the Clintons were deeply implicated.  I lived in Arkansas at the time and can distinctly recall how poisonous this slander was.  Even today I get angry just thinking about it.)

But beyond the Parnell/Clinton parallels, there is this:  Parnell used his considerable talents to try to find a political solution to Ireland's structural injustice, and he very nearly succeeded.  So there is a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God dimension to the path that Ireland actually took:  Easter 1916, the Anglo-Irish war, the Irish civil war, Ireland's neutrality in World War II, the Troubles, and so on.  Something (very roughly) like this may have been in store for the United States if LBJ had fallen a little short.  Parnell's tactical genius (playing the Liberals and Conservatives against each other while essentially holding the swing votes in Parliament) was probably close to LBJ's, but conditions were not as favorable (and in any case, LBJ didn't significantly advance civil rights until he was President).  But so anyway, we took the path less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

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