Carlos has been on my mind a lot this past two weeks or so.
He was one of the post-graduate students I met at Texas State University in February last year.
I was lecturing on the Troubles with particular reference to Conflict Resolution.
I absolutely loved it.
Highlight of my life.
I am not a professional. When I speak publicly, i am usually introduced as “Father of The Groom”.
The post-grads made it easy for me. They were attentive.
And I think I could play off a smile, a raised eyebrow or nodded agreement.
Carlos was maybe the one I looked towards to see if I was getting thru.
I spoke for almost an hour and a half …some pretty good questions.
But Carlos asked the final question as we were breaking up the session and I was gathering up the reports, postcards and visual aids.
“What do young people think?”
I was I think far too relaxed at that stage. Too flippant. I said “Im 60 years old…I dont understand anyone under 40”
But I have long thought that Carlos deserved a better answer than that.
Well in the lecture I made reference to the Norn Iron Civil Rights Struggle circa 1966-69 and the American Civil Rights Struggle circa 1960-68.
There are similarities.
There are differences.
Certainly travelling thru Atlanta airport and listening to the welcoming voice of the Mayor of Atlanta…I was acutely aware that this was a city not unlike Belfast …re-inventing itself.
So for over a year I have thought that I short-changed Carlos with that answer.
And I think I would answer his question in “American Deep South” terms …from the perspective of a veteran of the Civil Rights campaign in Atlanta.
It seems to me that I hear young people saying two things.
One is that “nothing has changed”.
The other is “its ancient history…everything has changed”
I think BOTH are wrong.
It irritates me when an 18 year old presumes to tell me that everything in Norn Iron is just as it was before The Troubles. They havent a clue.
Likewise the 18 year old that tells me that EVERYTHING is so very different now. They havent a clue.
So if I was sitting on my porch in Selma, Alabama today….I just might hear young people say the same.