Conall McDevitt made an interesting aside yesterday referring to “our two great countries” by which he meant Ireland and Britain. A slightly unusual but probably welcome form of words.
As the American Election Campaign gets into full swing, we will get used to seeing President Obama declare that he is happy to be in “the great state of New Hampshire” and Mitt Romney will tell us that he is happy to be in the “great state of Idaho”. At some point Obama will introduce his friend Joe Biden “from the great state of Delaware” and Romney will welcome Sarah Palin “from the great state of Alaska” on to a platform.
Thats the problem with American states. They defy statistics. All fifty are great. But would it not be refreshing to hear Obama say “I am in the extremely mediocre state of Kentucky” and would it not be great if Romney told us he was in “the godawful state of South Dakota”. Now I must emphasise that I choose these states at random. I am just a little skeptical that they are all ……”great”.
It is a rhetorical device of politicians.
But is Britain “great”?. Is Ireland “great”?
Well by any index …..Freedom, Democracy etc……Britain is great. It has an honourable record in dealing with asylum seekers, migrants, charging up beaches at Normandy in 1944. But there is an another side…imperialism, exploitation and bombing civilians in Dresden. Mixed clearly. But on the whole…..in 2012….a decent place.
And by the same indices, Ireland is great. A proud record of seeking Freedom, of neutrality, of peacekeeping. But the darkside of church/state exploitation of children, political chancers and business men/crooks is less attractive. Mixed but by 2012 standards decent.
Yet Nationalism and Unionism are defined …in the main….by not thinking that one of these countries is not really THAT great. If Irish nationalists thought that Britain was “great” well there would be nationalism. If British unionists thought that Ireland was “great”, they simply would not be unionists.
Of course Conall would call my words here “old politics”. He is almost right. My views are ageing politics and in due course will belong in the past but we are not quite there yet.
As a nationalist, I find Conall’s words “challenging”. And really I am too old to be challenged. But certainly I know that these things have to be said.