2015-02-28 By Ed Timperlake
Ireland is a nation that has experienced great joy in celebrating the written word along with great sadness and tragedy during their many times of trouble.
The Irish love of poetry and music is in their human essence as is a feistiness and undaunted courage about almost everything.
In America, the Irish have managed to make great strides in becoming political leaders.
President Kennedy, President Reagan and the late Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill are perfect examples.
As an aside, “Tip” and “Ronnie” got along better than Speaker O’Neill (D) did with President Carter (D).
On November 11, 2011, Michael D. Higgins was inaugurated as the ninth President of Ireland.
The Irish President is described as:
“A passionate political voice, a poet and writer, academic and statesman, human rights advocate, promoter of inclusive citizenship and champion of creativity within Irish society,
Michael D. Higgins has previously served at almost every level of public life in Ireland, including as Ireland’s first Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.
He has also published four collections of poetry — ’The Betrayal; The Season of Fire; An Arid Season’ and ‘New and Selected Poems’.”
On his being elected there was some rather significant opposition about his positions prior to becoming President.
In reacting to his election, his past political actions and statements were widely noted:
“Ireland elects as president poet Michael Higgins, who was against the American war in Iraq, protested against visiting President Ronald Reagan and rallied against Israel’s maritime embargo of the Hamas terrorist authority in Gaza.”
But the Israel National news was also very fair in pointing out President Higgins made a vow to not carry his past positions into office:
“If he carries out his vow to remain “neutral,’ Higgins will not continue his activity, at least not publicly, against Israel.”
The list of what he believed in was widely known, admiring Castro, mourning Arafat, being angry with President Bush and the Iraq war and he was solidly elected.
Those actions and others could have justifiably sent major shockwaves to Israel and moderate and conservative Americans.
In a country as Catholic as Ireland, he got off to a good start and was commended for bringing an inclusive element to his inauguration:
“The inauguration will include a Christian service of prayer followed by blessings from Islamic and Jewish representatives and a moment of reflection to mark the humanist philosophy and secular aspects of Irish life.”
So how is it going about half way through his term in terms of keeping his vow?
The proof of his adhering to his vow can be seen in the actions of both the President and his fellow citizens.
History may show that President Higgins of Ireland is building on the great legacy of a past Irish President ‘Eamon de Valera:
“The original Irish Constitution of 1937 specifically gave constitutional protection to Jews.
This was a necessary addition to the constitution by Éamon de Valera because of the treatment of Jews in Europe at the time, particularly under Hitler…
The Dublin Jewish community arranged the planting and dedication of the Éamon de Valera Forest in Israel, near Nazareth, in recognition of his consistent support for Ireland’s Jews.”
President Higgin’s Cabinet Minister for Foreign Affairs is committing Ireland to a very public fight against anti-semitism:
It is, therefore, vital that people of good conscience heed Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan’s recent statement at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, when he forcefully said:
“I believe that it is essential that we redouble our efforts throughout the world to resist and combat anti-Semitism in all forms.”
On a human level it must be very hard for Jewish travelers on vacation in certain countries.
Further proof of respecting all religions and cultures can be seen in the actions of the Irish people:
Although in Ireland “there were still some smaller rallies in Dublin (about Israel’s actions in Gaza), where we spent our first couple of days before heading out to the Irish countryside.…
“Enough of this,” our 20-year-old daughter declared a few days into the trip.
“I don’t see why we can’t say we’re Israeli.
The next person who asks, I’m just going to tell them.”
I couldn’t stop her.
She was an adult.
So what happened?
People nodded, said something like, “That’s interesting,”
“Hey, I know krav maga,” or “I have a cousin who visited Israel last year.”
On a personal artistic level President Higgins is a poet as much as a successful politician and has released a very serious poem, “The Prophets are Weeping,” which should be widely noticed and read in a world where information war is being waged on global proportions.
There is some public debate in Ireland as to the focus and meaning of the poem.
Independent of all that, an artistically gifted individual can often sense and capture a greater meaning for humanity then the exact time, date and meaning when they originally created their work.
“Dover Beach,” by the English Poet Mathew Arnold is a perfect example.
Tt was created around 1851.
The English, just as the Irish, have had generation after generation of truly great writers and poets.
“Dover Beach” stands the test of time as a worthy poem.
The last lines of Dover Beach were truly an ominous foreshadowing of 20th Century Wars:
“And we are here as on a darkling plain…swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight…where ignorant armies clash by night”,
In this hundred year period of commemorating WWI-the “War to end all Wars,” 1914-1918, deadly armies were clashing by night in those horrific WW I battles.
To continue the symbolism of Dover Beach to the English in WW II. the White Cliffs of Dover became both a symbolic symbol and an actual physical place where England stood defiant against the Nazis.
Just listen to Vera Lynn sing “There’ll Be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover.”
As in World War II, there is now a battle raging against vicious genocidal individuals, who have proven to be as motivated in doing evil to innocents as were the Nazi SS.
Just like in pre-WWII days Ireland just like under the great leader President ‘Eamon de Valera can be a force for good.
Based on documented reported evidence from the Middle East the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is committing full scale genocide against Christians in the name of their religion.
As reported in The Jerusalem Post on February 24, 2015: “Many of the violations and abuses perpetrated by ISIL [Islamic State] may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide,” the report says.
Readers may feel comfortable in reflecting on a universal meaning in President Higgin’s poem “The Prophets are weeping.”
President Higgins has created a very powerful Information War (IW) message against some very horrible events occurring right now.
ISIS is a brutal force, which asserts that only they have the right to rule in the Middle East and beyond.
We can call them extremist; but that is not enough.
We need to engage in the battle of ideas as well for it is Western secularism and tolerance which is the enemy, not Jews or Christians. Shiites or Sunni.
It is about power dominance via exploiting ideological purity and mobilization of the “faithful” to achieve the purity of rule desired by the ISIS leadership and followers.
In reading the poem it can be seen as a stand against corrupted religious doctrine.
Of course, only President Higgins knows what he means, but like Mathew Arnold and many poets and writers before and after him, their words can have powerful meanings that transcend time.
“The Prophets are Weeping” can be read as a stance against the horror coming out of the Middle East, and It is published below for the reader to take away any message they so feel:
The Prophets are Weeping:
To those on the road it is reported that
The Prophets are weeping,
At the abuse
Of their words,
Scattered to sow an evil seed.
Rumour has it that,
The prophets are weeping.
At their texts distorted,
The death and destruction,
Imposed in their name.
The sun burns down,
On the children who are crying,
On the long journeys repeated,
Their questions not answered.
Mothers and Fathers hide their faces,
Unable to explain,
Why they must endlessly,
No end in sight,
Move for shelter,
for food, for safety, for hope.
The Prophets are weeping,
For the words that have been stolen,
From texts that once offered,
To reveal in ancient times,
A shared space,
Of love and care,
Above all for the stranger.
As The Irish Times highlighted the importance of the release of the poem in early 2015:
President Michael D Higgins has released the text of the only poem he has written since assuming office in 2011.
The Prophets are Weeping with its references to extremism and the displacement of people could hardly be more topical given the situation in the Middle East.
The poem was completed last year before the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris which left 12 people dead. That attack inspired the following week’s cover which featured the prophet Mohammad weeping.
Mr Higgins finalised the poem in October last year but had been working on it for some time.
The President was influenced by the flight of people from northern Iraq and those in flight from the Syrian conflict.
Not only is the President, a poet, identifying the distortion of basic principles of humanity, but as a successful politician he fully understands core dynamics of a free society.
Ireland has countless debating points bandied about in freedom from fear as an antidote to such ideological Islamic purity that leads to genocide.
The President of Ireland in his stated political principles on leading his country captures the value of inclusive, not divisive, social solidarity.
He also stress a way to foster creative empowerment of the arts beginning at a local level.
Like his poem showing the dangers of corrupted thinking, his leadership of Ireland shows creative empowerment as the way to inoculate a nation against such crazy distorted fanatical power gone mad.
ISIS is now being reported as destroying historic artifacts in their blind rage for some form of cultural purity.
Not only are they genocidal fanatics they are striking right at the heart and soul of humanity a society’s’ culture.
But the Irish well understand the power and glory of their creativity that has gone before in their turbulent history and that it must always be protected as a force for good today.
President Higgin’s political statements and his poetry are very powerful positive affirmations of how to foster creativity in a free society and he has been a man of his word:
We must seek to build together an active, inclusive citizenship; based on participation, equality, respect for all and the flowering of creativity in all its forms.
A confident people is our hope, a people at ease with itself, a people that grasps the deep meaning of the proverb ‘ní neart go cur le chéile’ – our strength lies in our common weal – our social solidarity.”
I will champion creative communities who are bringing about positive change at local level by giving recognition to their achievements on the national stage.
I believe that when we encourage the seedbed of creativity in our communities and ensure that each child and adult has the opportunity for creative expression, we also lay the groundwork for sustainable employment in creative industries and enrich our social, cultural and economic development.
Finally Ireland (so far) does not have a national motto but often a sign can be seen in galic; Céad Míle Fáilte- “One hundred thousand welcomes.”
The Irish are living up to that saying every day.