The rabbit hole of history has led me to Ireland and the troubles. Don’t ask me exactly how I got here from the Moses story and the Jesus story, but I’m piecing together world history through whatever interests me at the time (or whatever I overhear on the subway and remember to google later.)
I started with “Braveheart” which admittedly is about Scots, but then I watched “Black ’47” which is about the Irish potato famine. Did you know that the reason there was a famine, is that the Irish people were forced to live on very small tracts of land which could not support such agriculture? Yes, it’s true. And get this – in order to receive soup, the Irish had to renounce their Roman Catholic faith in order to get the soup. I learned this from “Black ’47” which if nothing else, stars James Frecheville with one of those beards that can be quite off-putting or quite attractive, depending on my mood.
But this post is about “In the Name of the Father,” which was nominated for an Oscar when it came out in the 90s. It tells the story of Irish people who wrongfully convicted of an IRA bombing. The IRA, by the by, is the Irish Republican Army that fought for Irish independence from Britain and often carried out guerrilla warfare or terroristic type actions (such as bombings.)
Anyway, I learned that Gerry Conlon fought for the truth even though he was imprisoned for fifteen years, and even though he saw his own father die in prison, an innocent man.
I can’t imagine how Gerry Conlon must have felt.
Here is the footage of Gerry Conlon when he is finally freed from prison, when he finally receives some form of truth, but perhaps not justice:
The hardest part for me to accept is that the government basically forced a confession from these people. Apparently, they were treated pretty brutally during their interviews – and they were kept for seven days without even a charge of a crime. It was during these seven days that the “Guilford four” as they came to be known, confessed to the crime.
Later, of course, they all claimed innocence, but the government had a written and signed confession, which was all they needed.
This story struck an emotional cord with me, because I know how it feels to realize that truth doesn’t matter. It’s a scary feeling, and it can make a person feel powerless.
But the truth does matter, and it’s worth fighting for the truth. I feel like it’s evil to hide the truth, and I don’t normally believe in evil. But hiding the truth strips people of their dignity, and I want no part in that anymore.
Gerry Conlon’s story showed me that even if you’re forced to lie in the most horrible way, and even if the world is against you, you have to keep fighting because there is a chance – even a small chance – that the truth can be revealed.
And revealing the truth? It can change everything. Otherwise, why would they commit such evil acts to keep the truth hidden?
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off,” is one of my favorite quotes. I believe it’s Gloria Steinem rephrasing the Bible, but I generally think of Rihanna and this song:
It really makes me wonder how many times I’ve felt forced to lie. How many times have you felt forced to lie, to confess something untrue, just to make someone get off your back? Maybe we are all liars. Maybe we have all been forced to lie.
But there is always a chance, and a choice, to reveal the truth. Do I dare? Do you?
Let me know if you have any movie recommendations or book recommendations regarding Irish history or Irish-American history 🙂 Or obviously, if you have any thoughts you’d like to share!
Thanks for reading,