Right to Bare Arms

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On this day, August 18th, 1920 Tennessee became the last of the 36 states required to ratify the 19th Amendment to the American Constitution, giving Women the Right to Vote.

The constitution was ratified in 1788 and it only took 132 years for Americans to give women a vote.  Of course a vote and equality are very different things.  The unratified equal rights amendment sought to have men and women treated equally under the law.  Initially proposed in 1923 it has never been ratified.  It almost got over the line in the 1970’s when a conservative womens group hamstrung the amendment to protect their alimony and avoid military service.  So to this day men and women in the USA are not equal.

Slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment in 1965 during the U.S. Civil War.  The Civil Rights Act in 1964, 100 years later, was passed to attempt to right some of the wrongs in US society such as the Jim Crow laws, segregation and discrimination.

School shootings are nothing new in the USA.  They have been happening since the 1840’s but a whole new type of school shooting incident kicked off in 1979.  Irish punk band The Boomtown Rats were in a US radio station when the news came in that 16 year old Brenda Spencer shot and killed the principal and janitor and wounded 8 children and a police officer in Cleveland Elementary San Diego.  A reporter managed to make contact with Brenda and asked her why she did it.  Her response was “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.”

Bob Geldof and Johnnie Fingers wrote the song “I don’t like Mondays” and every teenager in Ireland and the UK became aware of the phenomenon of the school shooting.

There have been mass shootings since then in many countries including the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, France etc.  In EVERY SINGLE CASE the event led to a change in the laws.  Pardon me, not every single case.  The Cleveland Elementary shooting did not lead to a change in the US laws.

These days a school shooting where only 2 people die would not get 5 minutes air time in the USA.  There were 28 recorded school shooting events up to May 7th of 2019.

In terms of absolute records the Beslan school massacre where 334 died will hopefully never be bested.  But that was a terrorist attack rather than a school shooting.  Top of the death poll in the USA remains the Bath school disaster of 1927 when a Michigan school board treasurer firebombed his farm and the school in an act of revenge because he was not elected as township clerk.

In the modern era of nihilistic mass murder the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook shootings lead the posse.

If you look at the list of School Massacres by Death Toll on wikipedia you could make the case that USA is only an “also ran” in the tables.  The key difference with the USA is the reaction against any change to the 2nd Amendment rights.  States can, do and have made changes to gun licencing laws in the USA.  Indeed many opponents of the gun lobby make the case that it is states that SHOULD make the changes.  There is a strong lobby in the USA for states rights and to limit the power of the federal government.

This should be nothing unusual to Europeans who are members of the European Union.  Nation states in the EU are very protective of their unique voices within the union.  Here in Irealand we become very worked up when voices in France and Germany suggest that our corporate taxes are too low.

It took 132 years for American women to get a vote.  It took 100 years from the Civil War for Black Americans to secure meaningful laws, and that has not yet translated into equality of opportunity.  Change is slow, painfully slow.  But change does come.  The USA will never give up the right to bear arms, but without doubt change will come about to limit who can bear arms, how many arms and what type of arms.  I expect that when people read this blog post in 100 years they will say “any day now”.

PS if you did read this my sincere apologies.  It is a very badly written rambling flow.

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Ireland’s Battle of Saratoga

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In the USA the Battles of Saratoga were a vital step for the American cause.  An army of mostly irregular colonists took on the professional British Army and defeated them.  They did this through a combination of British arrogance, knowledge of the terrain and superior marksmanship.  The US frontiersmen with their Kentucky rifles, using natural cover, were more than a match for the British regulars with their smoothbore brown bess muskets.

In Ireland in 1598 the Ulster Irish led by Hugh O’Neill and Hugh O’Donnell won a similar victory at the Battle of the Yellow Ford.  The Elizabethan British Army of occupation built a fort on the Blackwater in Armagh to threaten Ulster.  The Ulster forces quickly placed it under siege.

The British led a relief force under Sir Henry Bagenal, an experienced commander of veteran troops.  The British were heavily armed and armoured.  They had better cavalry than the Irish and carried a heavy arquebus or musket, which required a supporting pole to steady it for firing.  The Musketeers supported by pikemen in the tradition of the day.

The Irish were actually better armed.  O’Neill was famous for the tricks he used to circumvent restrictions on his ability to recruit and arm his men.  He was permitted a personal bodyguard of only 600 men.  So he rotated them every 6 months and trained them relentlessly to build an army of over 5,000.  He imported lead to waterproof the roof of his castle, and turned it into shot.  Most importantly he sourced the very latest and lightest arquebuses, called Claviers (a corruption of the word Caliber – because they were of standard bore)

Using terrain features and pre-constructed ditches and banks the Irish harried the British from cover very much as the Americans would do hundreds of years later.  When the British came within sight of the Blackwater fort the defenders cheered and tossed their caps in the air in celebration.  The British infantry moved strongly forward over the Yellow Ford.

Then the Irish struck at the rear of their formations, smashing the British from behind.  The leading regiments were forced to retreat to protect themselves and the retreat turned into a desperate defence.  In the panic that ensued a British Infantryman ran to refill his powder horn from a barrel of gunpowder.   He was holding a lit match in his hand and set off the powder in a massive explosion.

The British were harassed all the way back to the River Callan, and there someone on the British side had made a smart decision to position some artillery pieces in a fallback position.  They were able to hold the Irish and prevent a complete slaughter.

Of 4,000 British Soldiers only 2,000 made it back to the garrison of Armagh.  After some negotionation they were permitted to return south only by leaving behind all their arms and ammunition.

It would be nice to say that the outcome of Yellow Ford was similar to the outcome of Saratoga, but it was not to be.  The Americans had the French to support their revolutionary war.  The Irish had the Spanish, who landed in Kinsale, the furthest possible point away from the Ulster strongholds of O’Neill and O’Donnell.

At the Battle of Kinsale the Irish & Spanish forces were defeated by the British and the result was the “Flight of the Earls” when O’Neill and O’Donnell departed Ireland with their retinue for exile in Spain.  Their departure opened Ulster for Plantation by protestants loyal to the British Crown, a move that is reflected in the politics of the Island of Ireland to this day.

Yellow Ford was fought this day, August 14th 1598.

Sonnet 46; by William Shakespeare

Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war
how to divide the conquest of thy sight;
Mine eye my heart thy picture’s sight would bar,
my heart mine eye the freedom of that right.
My heart doth plead that thou in him dost lie
a closet never pierced with crystal eyes.
But the defendant doth that plea deny
and says in him thy fair appearance lies.

To ‘cide this title is impanneled
a quest of thoughts, all tenants to the heart,
and by their verdict is determined
the clear eye’s moiety and the dear heart’s part:
As thus; mine eye’s due is thy outward part,
and my heart’s right thy inward love of heart.

Bank Holiday Sunday Morning

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Sitting here in the kitchen on a sunny Sunday morning of a Bank Holiday and I am wandering the wide spaces of the world with deft strokes of my fingertips.

And here I found Billy Collins, the Irish-American poet with a poem about Irish-Dutch cows, if they are Holsteins, or Dutch-Irish cows if Friesians, or they could be a US bred strain of Holstein-Friesians imported back into Ireland.  He didn’t say.

Cows it seems are not like people.  We bring in a Friesian, or a Limousin, a Belgian Blue or a Scottish Angus.  We set it on the land and it eats the green grass of Ireland and magically becomes an Irish steer, an Irish Bull, or an Irish Cow.

We don’t point at it in the field and shout “Go back to Hungary”, or “We don’t want your type of cattle round here”.

Ireland is sometimes personified as a cow.  In his lament for Thomas McDonagh, Francis Ledwidge uses this analogy very powerfully.  And of course the greatest ancient epic in Ireland, central to the tales of Cúchulainn and the Cycle of Tales of the Knights of the Red Branch is the Cattle Raid of Cooley.

Afternoon with Irish Cows

 

Moving on

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All going to plan we may be living here by the summers end.  There is a lot of paperwork to transact, but barring a disasterous survey this looks like our new home.

It is a very different prospect from the current country pile with big gardens, barn, coachhouse, chickens, 200 year old timber and room for a pony.  No neighbours to speak of, but far from all facilities and 100% reliant upon cars to do everything.

Instead we are opting for a vertical apartment with postage stamp patio garden.  In the heart of Ballincollig with extensive yoga in the public parks on the river side, and the village and shopping centres only a stroll away.  Cork City 15 mins down the road on the bus which runs 24 hours a day.  A cycle lane all the way to the office.

New move – new adventure.

Upon the road of my life; by Stephen Crane

Upon the road of my life,
passed me many fair creatures,
clothed all in white, and radiant.
To one, finally, I made speech:
“Who art thou?”
But she, like the others,
kept cowled her face,
and answered in haste, anxiously,
“I am good deed, forsooth;
you have often seen me.”
“Not uncowled,” I made reply.
And with rash and strong hand,
though she resisted,
I drew away the veil
and gazed at the features of vanity.
She, shamefaced, went on;
and after I had mused a time,
I said of myself,
“Fool!”

YogaInThePark

Party Planning

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My daughter Esha is 21 in July.  Today she is online shopping for the tat to fancy up the barn for her party.  It will be the last party we have in this house so it is poignant but also great fun.  As I type this we are listening to her “Arrival” playlist, the music that will be playing as the guests assemble in dribs and drabs and before the serious party playlist kicks in.

Playlist 2 is entitled “now we’re drunk” and is for when everyone has a drink in their hand before the band kick in.

Headlining for the party we have booked the legendary 5Day.  If you have not heard of them here is your opportunity.

5 Day Album on Spotify

5 Day on Soundcloud

Then there will be further playlists, but the party will probably move down to the firepit.  We are going for a music festival vibe.  Tents in the garden.  Craft beer and cider.  Beer pong.

Don’t even think about coming, the tickets are all sold.  The security have a clipboard and a list.  We will be releasing the attack chickens.

 

 

 

The last voyage.

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This is my favourite photo of my cousin Orla with her two boys Eoin and Aidan, but you know how I love all things nautical.  Yesterday Orla departed on her last voyage from this plane and now it is up to us to send her off with all the pomp and drama of a Pharoah boarding a solar barge or a viking on a funeral ship.

What can I say about Orla?  Nothing better can be said than these words from another of my cousins, Mark C. O’Flaherty  and if you follow the link on his name you will see he is a genius with a camera.  Not content with his visual genius he puts me to shame with the quality of his writing too.  I have read this quite a few times and it makes me tear up every one.

-o0o-

I hate today

One of the best things about being part of a huge and amazing Irish family is that you are gifted, as a birthright, a lot of ready-made best mates. I spent a lot of time in Dublin growing up, and all my friends there were also my cousins. Every summer was full of the most brilliant adventures. My first memory of Orla was as a brattish little girl, five years younger than me, absolutely petrified of the Devil mask I had persuaded my uncle to buy me to go trick or treating with. I took delight in chasing her around the house while she screamed her head off and wept … if she was a brat, I was a horrible little shit. But, you know … *kids*. As we grew up, she became really special to me. A five year difference doesn’t mean much when you are in your 30s and 40s. I remember being SO happy when she finally had the family she had wanted for so long – with monstrous pain and disappointment along the way. I sat in her house in Clonakilty and felt a tinge of jealousy at how great her life was – her first little boy, Eoin, was being the most adorable little weirdo, playing with Neil and two giant cuddly Bert and Ernies, and muttering incoherent hilarious nonsense, and for one afternoon I totally “got” why people have kids. Orla was SO HAPPY. But then she always seemed so happy. Which was one of the reasons why she was always my favourite cousin and why I loved her so much. Her joy and wit was infectious. When she walked in the room for her surprise 40th birthday party in Roganstown and everyone cheered the loudest cheer possible, I realised all of us felt the same way about her … She, meanwhile, found it utterly hilarious that I was hemmed in by so many riotous obnoxious children that I was in some way related to. “Ha, Mark! You must be loving this!” And actually I was.

Orla was always the person I wanted to spend time with the most when we were all together in Dublin as a family. I thought I’d always feel like that. But today she is gone. At 42. Leaving two young boys and all of us heartbroken, with half a lifetime or more taken away from her, and us. I feel heavy and numb and weird and a unique mixture of loss and frustration. I am far from home and I can’t comprehend how awful our family feels in Ireland right now, after spending the last few days with her. It is unjust and unfathomable. I am trying to find some solace in the fact that Orla absolutely knew how loved she was, but I can’t really, and I just want her back, waiting for me, with her madly bright smile, beside the bar with her boys Eoin and Aidan, my Auntie Phyllis and Uncle Frank, her brothers Conor and Garrett and her husband Ian at the next family party in Dublin.

We are all heartbroken today and I hate it

-o0o-

In memory of my mother; by Patrick Kavanagh

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
you walking down a lane among the poplars
on your way to the station, or happily

going to second Mass on a summer Sunday –
you meet me and you say:
‘Don’t forget to see about the cattle – ‘
among your earthiest words the angels stray.

And I think of you walking along a headland
of green oats in June,
so full of repose, so rich with life –
and I see us meeting at the end of a town

on a fair day by accident, after
the bargains are all made and we can walk
together through the shops and stalls and markets
free in the oriental streets of thought.

O you are not lying in the wet clay,
for it is a harvest evening now and we
are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
and you smile up at us – eternally.

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Industrial landscape or green island?

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If you look really carefully at the skyline in the photo above you will see a line of electricity generating windmills.  In the field are dairy cattle and on the gate is a warning  about a bull and electric fencing.  All these elements got me thinking about the environment.  But don’t believe a word of what I say – the “Beware of the bull” warning applies to my posts too.

I hear a lot of people complaining about windmills in the countryside, and how they are ugly things, and how they ruin the landscape and how they kill birds etc etc etc.  These are the kind of people who look into this field and see nature.  Then they go to the shops and feel very morally superior when they drink soy instead of milk.

I look at this landscape and what I see is a factory.  The field is not natural, it is a creation of man.  The cows are not natural, again we created them through breeding.  There may be a bull in the field but I guarantee he is only servicing the cows that missed out impregnation with the top quality AI sperm.

The windmills in the distance are no less “natural” than any other element in the picture.  The countryside is a factory, a unit of production, an industrial landscape.

There is a balance to be struck.  Hardline vegans say that the dairy industry is engaged in the rape of cows and the forcible kidnapping of their calves.  It is emotive language.  At the extreme conclusion of their philosophy we plant a fraction of the currently farmed land with vegetables, fruits, grains and pulses and the remainder becomes rewilded.  This is a dystopian horror future for farmers.  More importantly for the nation it results in the depopulation of the rural countryside.  If you want a vibrant rural economy there must be jobs.

We have already seen the conclusion of the extreme commercial approach to farming.  Cows so heavy with milk they cannot walk anymore, riddled with infections which are controlled by massive amount of antibiotics.  Meat animals in cramped conditions where diseases are controlled by antibiotics and where hormones are used to accelerate growth.  Widespread use of insectisides, weedkillers and fertilisers that are undoubtedly harming the environment and killing off pollinators.  Destruction of biodiversity in favour of commerical monoculture.

Funilly enough the result of both extremes – High intensity automated commercial farming at one end, and a rewilded vegan world at the other, is rural depopulation.

I believe Ireland can and should lead the world as a Green Food Island.  A place where the most environmentally positive farming practices are the minimum standard.  A place with a reputation for compassion in husbandry.  A country that keeps people in the countryside by valuing less profitable family size farms that provide employment on the land.  And keeps people in the countryside by rewarding the situation of production in the rural infrastructure.

That is a vision of a world in balance.