Belfast, Northern Ireland
The play: "Darkness Lifting"
Belfast is a beautiful city in Northern Ireland which has historically been
torn apart by fighting between Catholics, who want the area made a part the
Republic of Ireland, and Protestants, who want it to remain a part of Great
Britain. Like so many of the world's current problems, this one, too, stems
largely from an historic inability of imperialists to draw maps as they leave.
The British initially created Northern Ireland by moving a large numbers of
Brits into Ireland in order to maintain domination of this area while all of
Ireland was under British rule. When Ireland received its independence from
Britain in the early part of the 20th Century, the issue of what to do with this
section of Northern Ireland was more or less, "to be settled at a future date."
The years of violence that have occurred since have been an effort to resolve
this issue.. (Note: Other political boundaries developed by the British that
have led to unrest include India/Pakistan, Cyprus, and Israel/Palestine, which,
of course, the U.S. had something to do with, as well)
Now, Belfast is mostly free of the violence that has plagued the city for
years. Different parts of the city remain divided as evidenced by large murals
painted on the sides buildings: "No Surrender" often appearing in the
Protestant, such as the Shankill Road area, and "Sagirse zo ceo" or "Freedom
forever," appearing all along the Falls Road, Catholic area. However, the city
center has become one lively and wonderful ‘dmz', where years of pent-up
frustration is exorcized nightly with good food and drink. Belfast is among the
world's most lively and exciting cities where one gets the feeling of true
celebration after so many years of pain.
I conducted a series of interviews on both sides of the religious divide, in
homes, pubs, and throughout the city. Some interviews were arranged, some came
about through my meeting people in various places. Some people were very
reluctant to say anything and some welcomed the opportunity to let out what was
bottled up inside.
One woman I talked with a great deal I had met on the street as she was
trying to save souls for Christ. Neither Catholic nor Protestant, the
Evangelical movement seemed to provide the same sort of solace that the downtown
drinking establishments afforded: a separate place removed from the struggle
that had killed people and destroyed lives. Her church, on the outskirts of
town, was to churches as the Superdome was to high school football stadiums, and
it drew a huge, enthusiastic following.
One of the interesting discoveries that came out of my research was how much the
appreciation of Elvis Presley cut across the religious divide. I often ask
people who their favorite singer is or what their favorite movie might be,
generally as a way of breaking the ice and getting people to talk about things.
Usually, the answer to these sorts of questions is not that important. But when
so many people with whom I spoke pointed to Elvis Presley as their favorite
singer, that struck me as significant.
In probing a little further, I found that a very popular modern singer in
Northern Ireland penned the song whose point was, "When you say something, say
nothing at all." In a place where words and ideas killed people, it seemed many
sought the solace of insignificance. Of course, who says less with his songs
than Elvis Presley? "You ain't nothing but a hound dog" isn't the sort of thing
likely to cause a fight among friends or even among enemies for that matter.
main character in this section is a grandmother who sees the stupidity of the
religious divide and attacks it straight on. She refuses to allow herself to
become a part of the incessant argument no matter how much she is hurt by it. By
not joining up with the prevalent mentality of her neighborhood, she found that
she and her family were hurt almost as much by their supposed friends as they
were by their enemies. This further strengthened her belief in what she stood
for, and in this commitment she found her own separate peace.
The Play: Darkness Lifting