Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Making nice (while also making us sick)

Right on time for Easter, Christopher Hitchens considers the recently concluded power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland.

He raises a difficult question: how much praise do people deserve for putting out fires which they themselves were instrumental in helping to set?

Which is a good question. As is this one:

So, what did all those Irishmen and Irishwomen (and Englishmen and Englishwomen) get killed for? Mostly, if the truth be told, they were slaughtered for no reason at all, or murdered by gangs bent on extortion and profit, or simply gunned down or blown up because they were, say, walking to the wrong school at the wrong time. I repeat: There is nothing in the latest Northern Irish agreement that was not easily available to both sides way back in 1967 or '68. And in the meantime, a whole province of a European country has been subjected to terror, clerical madness, and economic and social retardation that will take yet more decades to repair.

All accurate enough, and, indeed, there are few things more maddening than either undeserved praise or hypocritical, theatrical self-righteousness.

On the other hand, I also find myself thinking of a different question: in the face of all the gruesome misery that Hitchens reminds us, to what extent does the simple fact that this particular fire seems well on the way to being finally snuffed out make the questions how? and by whom? (however vomitous) of secondary importance?

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