About Me

Pearl City, HI, United States

Friday, February 09, 2007

"Killing Rage"*

The late Eamon Collins
Unattributed photo from the Internet

An IRA soldier
(unattributed photo)
*Book Review: Amazon.com

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Couey
Written content only

“KILLING RAGE” By Eamon Collins
Reviewed By Ralph Couey

“Killing Rage” vividly recounts the compelling personal journey of Eamon Collins through the violent morass of Northern Ireland politics; the evolution from committed Republican, to terrorist, to an activist for peace.

For most Americans, the dominant impression of the war in Northern Ireland would be a confused mélange of news video images, reports of exploded bombs, and dead women and children. With little exception, the violent tactics of the Irish Republican Army have met with universal condemnation. Even a basic understanding of the roots of the conflict and the reasons for its perpetuation would prove quite beyond the ability of most to recount. For the first time, however, the words and passion of Eamon Collins provide an honest, if chilling account of his involvement in the conflict as a member in various capacities of the Provisional Wing of the Irish Republican Army between 1978 and 1987.

The book opens abruptly and brutally with a detailed description of Collins’ first operation in December 1978, the killing of Major Ivan Toombs of the Ulster Defense Regiment (UDR). As Collins works to gather intelligence on his target he takes us through the process of dealing with a very human conflict::

“For me, the more I found out about him, the more admirable I found him. I liked him and felt that in other circumstances we might have been friends.” (Page 20)
“...to strike at Toombs was to strike at an ancient colonial system of elites. Killing Toombs would also be a symbol of our dogged resistance to inequality and injustice...” (Page 23)
“He was an idea, a force, not a person with a face. He had no humanity for me.” (Page 17)

This apparent moral conflict occurs repeatedly throughout the book in Collins’ continual debates with himself over the effectiveness of political violence. Collins also spends some time discussing the roots of the Irish conflict, which began as a growing dislike between the Protestant majority and his Catholic minority, which he characterizes as “... (The) Catholic underclass, marginalized, on the periphery of society, jobless, poorly educated, powerless and voiceless.” (Page 12) Students of the American Civil Rights Movement might recognize some clear parallels between life as a Catholic in Northern Ireland and life as an African-American in this country. Indeed, Collins recounts several incidents during both his and his parent’s childhood of acts of discrimination and outright violence committed against Catholics by Protestant civilians, police, and military. As might be expected, this violence went largely unpunished. It was out of this atmosphere of hate that the Republican movement gained strength. Over time, however, it changed from just a civil rights movement to “...a very ultra-left kind of Marxism.” Collins continues,

Boomers and Aging*

The Author at Deal's Gap
*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, May 28, 2008
as "Seize the day - Live life to the limits"

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Couey

Turning 53 can be one of three things: A day of celebration, a day of mourning, or just another day. On my last birthday, my brother-in-law called and with his usual Aussie bluntness asked, “Well, do you feel old?” My reply was that since my hair was still dark and largely all there, while his is snow white and in full scale retreat, no; I didn’t feel old.

Attitudes towards aging are connected to our personal view of life. If we have accomplished most of the things we set out to do, then regrets tend to be few. On the other hand, if all we see are missed opportunities and failures, then age becomes a terrible burden.

Star Trek’s Captain Picard described aging as the moment when one realizes that “…there are fewer days ahead then there are behind.” That realization strikes in moments when you least expect it. In the giddy hours after closing on our house, I was struck by the realization that if we held this mortgage through to its conclusion, that we would be 80 when the thing was finally paid off.

Baby Boomers have been described as “the ageless generation.” Thanks to modern medical technology and our generation’s funding of the home fitness industry, we will probably live longer and most likely work more years than our predecessors, not because we have to, but because we want to. In our youth, we rebelled against conformity and rallied for our independence. That attitude has carried us through the decades. Although we are aging, we refuse to act our age.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Flight 93: Forever Remember; Never Forget*

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat 2/16/2007
as "Always remember, never forget"

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Couey

Several hundred thousand people annually find their way to the temporary Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville and those numbers will likely increase after the permanent memorial is built.

The plans have been finalized, after clearing up the apparent misunderstanding about the four extra commemorations scattered throughout the design. The new memorial will no doubt be a place of beauty and reflection. But the stark simplicity and the spontaneous expression of what stands there now will be lost forever.

I go to the memorial several times a year. Each visit keeps fresh in my mind the memory of that day, a day that left an indelible mark of history and tragedy on us all. The fleeting sense of unity we felt that day has, as anticipated, dissolved and left us bitterly divided, perhaps irretrievably polarized. But, standing there and gazing across that field, I recall that for a few short, precious weeks, all of America walked shoulder to shoulder; we spoke with one heart.