Trouble in the streets, at home and abroad

OK – read this:

“It is a tragedy that when gunfire was being heard in the streets of the City of Belfast, and when people were being mown down by that gunfire, no personnel of the British Army were available to give the people who were being slaughtered any protection whatsoever”

That’s from the maiden speech of Ian Paisley in the House of Commons in 1970 – just fifty years ago. 

Now try this:

“The biggest victims of the rioting are peace loving citizens in our poorest communities, and as I am their president, I will fight to keep them safe. I will fight to protect you. I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters…If the city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residence, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

That of course is President Donald Trump in the US, last night.

Paisley is complaining  that good people are being attacked and the British Army should be in place to put an end to that and prevent it happening in the future.

Trump is saying peaceful citizens are suffering at the hands of violent people and he will protect them, he will send in the US army to put an end to that and prevent it happening in the future.

The overall message is clear: there is a need for the ongoing violence to come to an end, and the military forces are the only way in which that violence can be dealt with.

If the Troubles have taught us anything, it is that repression, a military presence doesn’t solve things – it makes them worse. If the race riots in the US, going back to 1968, should have taught Americans anything , it is that repression, a military preence doesn’t solve things, it makes them worse.

The Americans have had since 1968, maybe decades and centuries before that, to realise that repression simply builds up resentment which is passed on to future generations.

Unionism has had since 1970, maybe for decades and centuries before that, to realise that repression simply builds up resentment, which is passed on to future generations.

Was Ian Paisley the polar opposite of Donald Trump? Hardly. The same massive presence, the same pretence to be the champion of the decent people who are at the mercy of violent elements within their community, the same call for greater military engagement to put manners on these people who have no respect for life or property.

The need to root out trouble-makers, the need for military force to do so, the Big Man who has the courage to call for these things and so is the idol of his fanatical followers – the trappings of fascism look the same, no matter where or when they land.

Given what followed in the decades after Paisley’s speech,  we can only pray that black America isn’t driven to the same extremes by today’s big coarse bully.

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