LetsGetAlongerism Has Failed in USA and Britain…

When I joined Slugger (after some false starts) in early 2010, the Decade of Centenaries was all the rage, how we should shape the anniversaries such as the Ulster Covenant, the Somme, Easter Rising, as something that was shared history. I started using the term “LetsGetAlongerism”. A lot of people seem to find the word objectionable. At one level, it seems rather evident that getting along is an excellent thing, but I think it is not in itself a political philosophy. On another level, people refuse to recognise that there is a third tribe in Norn Iron. Or maybe if they think there is a third tribe, then it should not be subjected to the same scrutiny as nationalists and unionists.

In the days I went blogging, I was never tired resorting to venues where I might learn more about LetsGetAlongerism. A hotel in Ormeau Avenue…integrated education (letslearnalongerism), Clonard Monastery (letsprayalongerism), Ulster Museum and writing, painting etc. for peace (letscreativealongerism), Queens and peace journalism (letswritealongerism) and the MAC for the launch of NI21 and a couple of hotels for political party conferences (letsvotealongerism).

I have never really been impressed by cities of culture, Game of Thrones, Titanic, MTV Awards, Tall Ships and Belfast divided into all these Quarters. Lipstick on a Pig.

Nor am I impressed by middle-class folks telling me that the walls must come down. And I have had my fill of naïve but decent conflict resolutionists being spoofed by ex-prisoners.

For basically LetsGetAlongerism… the search for some common denominator …is doomed to Failure. It is a compromise… a minimalist approach …to Right and Wrong.

We are somewhat lucky that our unofficial memorials (like the Republican memorial in Carrickmore) should be contentious, but in reality, they are not. If we have no complaint about the unofficial ones, we can’t complain about the official ones. I have a significant problem with John Mitchel and blogged about the statue years ago. Get rid of it and replace it with Frederick Douglas. It’s not for me to say whether Nicholson in Lisburn is a fitting icon for those people here who quite correctly identify as British. It has nothing to do with me.

The real problem might be the statues that we don’t have, rather than the icons we do have. For example, Sinn Féin and George Floyd. Black Lives Matter. But wouldn’t it be a good thing if there was a statue for Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan in West Belfast. Or indeed the Maguire Children. And across the Peace Line, I don’t know if there is a memorial to those tortured and killed in romper rooms.

And the good thing about the Republic is that as a 20th century nation, it has British war memorials (a great modern one in Longford), 1798 “pikemen” and 1916 volunteers but on my travels, I notice some great and not so great sculptures….Richard Harris, Terry Wogan, Jack Lynch, Luke Kelly, Joe Dolan and even Arkle the racehorse. The point is that they have passed 2020 (year and vision) vetting.

But older nations such as Britain and the USA have been around for longer and therefore have more problems.

Since American music, movies and TV have dominated my life for sixty years; there was with the honourable exceptions of Jack Benny Show and Phil Silvers Show, hardly any black people on their screens. Nobody in all those westerns or sitcoms until the talking point was a black guy pushing Chief Ironside around in a wheelchair. And others followed, of course. Casting by quota was a norm. Although so many of those “new” shows…Cheers, Frasier, Friends, The Golden Girls, The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon… all rather white… and maybe that’s a more realistic and depressing portrayal of how USA really is.

Victors get to erect statues (Churchill) and break statues (Saddam Hussein) and of course there are no Hitler or Nazi statues in Germany. They were after all defeated. But so was Jefferson Davis, Robert E Lee and Bedford Forrest. Or maybe after the brief Reconstruction phase, the South was never really defeated, except maybe in stages from the mid 1960s thru to this week. These nights are the Nights that Really Drove Ole Dixie Down.

The image that USA has of itself…that Melting Pot…has taken a knock.

CoronaVirus has made all TV redundant. But if you tune into Blue Bloods, Special Victims Unit, Chicago PD and The Rookie which were produced in 2019, the cops depicted in those shows are not solving crime in June 2020…they are out there in armour in Times Square, Michigan Avenue and Mulholland Drive. Of course, all “cop shows” have commissioners and city mayors and cops who are bad apples. But can I ever really watch any of these shows as entertainment.

Likewise Britain. Earnest-sounding conservatives tell us they do not share the values of Mr Colston in Bristol and Mr Rhodes in Oxford. They want us to see the history …it is actually in a lot of books as well as the family histories of a lot of British people. When people like Nigel Farage get involved, that whole “history” argument looks a bit weak.

But the statues that are tumbling (Colston) are not nearly as intriguing as the people who are tumbling. John Cleese, Ant and Dec and Little Britain.

Monty Python may have been creative but these were public schoolboys and Oxbridge and with attitudes to match. Ant and Dec are the nation’s sweethearts. And just a few weeks ago we were all singing the Baked Potato Song but whether in terms of Race or attitude to women (the women are grotesques) it is now time to reconsider it.

Of course, it is all getting a bit ridiculous with those cartoonish scouts turn out to defend Baden Powell’s statue.

But Britain which likes to propagate the whole “multicultural” version of itself is struggling to cope. An Olympic style back-slapping won’t cut the mustard now.

On both sides of the Atlantic, black and other minorities are more likely to be badly treated by the police, suffer poverty, have underlying conditions, work on the front line in health care and more likely to die in so doing. And even as Britain recovers economically, the minority populations will be the last to get back to the (old) Normal. But it seems Patience has run out.

In the USA, every generation…say 1960, 1980, 2000, and again in 2020, the Melting Pot is up for scrutiny. In every age, the majority population need to examine their (and the nations) relationship with the minority. What worked in 1980 will not work today. And in each generation, the majority goes thru the angst of “what happened to my country”. I don’t think a new compromise can be found and if it does… well, it will soon be 2040.

Likewise, in 1960, 1980, 2000, Britain has had to re-define its vaunted multicultural society. As recently as the 2012 Olympics, they were parading themselves as a changing society. But for every advance made by ethnic minorities, there is a lot of angry majority community feeling aggrieved. And again I don’t think a compromise is possible… and it will soon be 2040 and Britain will have to do it all again.

On both sides of the Atlantic, it is a dilemma for liberals in the majority community.

And what has this got to do with Norn Iron? Well… not a lot. Cos, there were no liberals in the majority community.

FEAR FACTORY LIES & how blurred are the details of war? your chances of dying FROM WAR RELATED ACTION based on social math calculations i will perform before your eyes, scott richard” by torbakhopper is licensed under CC BY-ND

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