I am a foreigner. On the scale of foreign-ness I may appear less different than others, being male and caucasian, but I am not from this Island. The meaningless violence that rampaged through the walled city in the north west, of the island of Ireland, has been judged as murder. Understandably our fascination with violence entices others to participate sometimes recreationally if not fuelled by malice. But this is no playground game and Lyra McKee has paid with her life, and her people in loss, as she sought to unmask, reframe and disrupt paramilitary power in her vocation as an investigative journalist and re-teller of stories exploring the landscape of trauma that human beings who experience the violence of war know like the back of their hands.
As I understand it, women and men from the dissident tradition are active with a desire to achieve what previous generations did not. It is always difficult when the mode changes. When the ways of being with which our individual, and collective, unconscious are connected are being re-negotiated and we’re left in the in between and have even less legitimacy or coherence. Our souls ache when there is no answer to the question of where do I belong. I can appreciate the sense of displacement and dissatisfaction that being alienated engenders. However, murdering police officers, journalists or any other human beings is far from carelessness and will not lead to the alleged freedom sought.
As an outsider, a blow-in, it is my view that our world is changing and that there is a place for us all, regardless of the myriad of our differences. In the world I see, there is a place for those who identify as Republican, Protestant, Unionist, Catholic, Loyalist or other as I do. I believe any expressions of violence have no place in creatively developing modalities that are consistent with the new story that is becoming. But this past Good Friday we crossed another line, a woman or man driven by madness or mission took a weapon and shot it — I understand — towards the PSNI and in doing so murdered a glorious human being — Lyra McKee.
A young woman, whose weapons were words, whose desire was truth and the uncovering of those in the shadows who wield power divorced from any sense of accountability, is dead before her time. Power without accountability is unwelcome and I say so from a place of a thousand welcomes. We know here about hospitality but we can no longer welcome any expression of violence — in ourselves or others — today or tomorrow. I am sorry that the over centuries the British misused their power fuelled by the same spirit that I see active in the dissident brethren and with all of my being I do not support the manifestation of more of what was and has been. The Empire as it was is over and let us not give any place to its homeless spirit.
We are being invited to find ways to connect and collaborate in the creation of human civilisation that is informed by the kind of values that imperial power is always at war with. A new story is emerging and in it different others living well with each other are part of the gift that will secure the becoming of a viable future. In JK Rowling’s compelling fictional narrative, it was old magic that rescued the child protagonist. Here is a cornerstone we can work with.
I understand that it was love of another woman that brought Lyra McKee to Derry. We’re so sorry Sara for the loss you, and Lyra’s wider family and friends are left to live with; and in agreement with the Taoiseach let it be that as “Lyra changed lives during her life (she) will do so again in death.” I’m asking myself what will I do informed by this sad and sorry affair? Will we just let this nightmare from our news feeds as it is replaced by other headlines for us to consume today and tomorrow. I believe love demands more from us. As Will Francis reminds us, quoting Faulkner “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.” On this island our war torn history leaves us with an uneasy relationship to the past and it seems to me we have worked hard to walk away from it rather than deal with it. Psychology would never endorse such treatment for a patient.
Almost twelve years ago, co-chairs Denis Bradley and Robin Eames completed the report of the Consultative Group on the Past and submitted it to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. They entrusted the recommendations of their consultative work with society to Governments and the Executive. It appears to me, an ordinary person, that either our corporate dysfunction or malicious intention has led us to bury the possibilities of the recommendations contained in that report rather than realise the political will to engage in looking “backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it more fit for its prime function of looking forward” as the report suggests.
What a beautiful and courageous thing Fr Martin Magill did during the homily at Lyra’s funeral — calling our political leaders to account.
According to https://howlonghasnorthernirelandnothadagovernment.com/ it is more than 800 days since Northern Ireland has had a functioning government. In what other place on Earth would this be permissible? Our experience of democracy is broken. This really is a mess and so we find ourselves at a crossroads where we are faced with choices about who we want to be and how we want to show up among and part of the family of nations. What will I choose?
It was reported recently that we have twelve years before we begin to see the irreversible impact of climate breakdown. Greta Thunberg addressed our European Leaders, on our behalf recently calling them to accept their responsibility to lead into rather than deny the reality of climate breakdown. The children of Europe are calling for change. A response, I’m contemplating, to the voice of Greta Thunberg and the blood of Lyra McKee is that I hope to live my life wholeheartedly and with intention to fulfil my potential as a human being. I can act in agreement and coordination, collaboratively with others. I can choose to resist rivalry and the short-sightedness of preferring myself and my interests as always being primary. I can live a life of characterised by the incarnation of old magic.
An older wisdom articulated by John Locke repudiates the illusion of individuality that informs a neo-liberal worldview and invites us to remember that “no human being is an island”. The invitation I perceive proposes that we each make time to pause, listen to and trust our internal voice and discover new ways to be faithful to our vocation as a human being.
We need political leaders, scientists, health care workers, educators, artists, those in commerce, community groups, new social spaces, leisure facilities, places of hospitality, government, independent journalists, athletes, social and charitable workers, those who’ll give their lives to create nurturing families and much more. There is unique purpose and a place to belong for everyone. We need you to become who you were born to be.
In the long shadows of sadness and crushed hope I hear the open invitation to find our place in the world to give and grow our gifts, shaped by our unique vocation. Why not order your life in these days, let it be poured out for the good of others and let nothing hold you back from the relentless pursuit of becoming the fulness of what your human code invites from your unique combination of flesh and blood.