Hard-Won Freedoms

Hard-Won Freedoms

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March 29, 2013

In 2016, the indigenous people of Northern Ireland hope to reunite politically with their kin in the Republic of Ireland. Looking to put the pain and suffering of British colonialism behind them, Irish and English political leaders in Northern Ireland have invested in ending bloodshed, and through power-sharing agreements, hope to defuse those still consumed by anger and resentment.

800 years of colonialism by the British Empire is not ended easily, but the end is now in sight.

As the Celtic nations of Scotland, Wales, and Ireland negotiate the demise of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, bedrock nations in the Americas and elsewhere still struggle against annihilation. While the Inuit of Greenland enjoy peaceful independence from Denmark, the Mapuche fight a life and death battle against the state of Chile.

The list of native nations yearning to be free is long, our attention drawn now and then to Kurdistan, Basque country, Tibet, or Biafra. While these references are remotely familiar as geographic locales, what is not often considered is that these are also the names of peoples with long ties to the landscapes they have rightful claim to, and that these peoples have social, political, and spiritual systems of their own.

Respecting their right under international law to be themselves, entails abandoning all means of foreign dominance through economic and military force—a lesson empires like the UK, the US, and the USSR learn at great cost.

While  my sixteenth century relation and his comrade in arms depicted on an Irish postage stamp were eminent adversaries of Queen Elizabeth, their descendents today have armed themselves with education, and have organized themselves for a peaceful future. Through great sacrifice, they have achieved the right of self-determination, and are now committed to not returning to the violence and bloodshed they endured in achieving it.

While I was not a part of that achievement, it gives me great hope that my kin in Northern Ireland and other indigenous peoples of the world will all someday enjoy the blessings of peace. Their hard-won freedoms demand it.

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