Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Breaking endless circles
Belfast center. I saw teenage girls with fresh, salon-primped hair and neon drainpipe pants and pastel high heels, and even younger boys with color-mottled football jerseys and dazzlingly chromatic sneakers. I saw a boy ran up behind a girl and goose her and then scurry back to his mates. The girl yelped and planted fists on hips and stared with mock outrage, and the boy laughed and raised his arms in triumph, like he had just converted a kick from the penalty spot. And then a thought arrived: Here, on this street, nearly a decade after the Good Friday Agreement, are young men and women born long after the violence captured and depicted in the old books I once read. For the first time in generations, there are adolescents growing up here with the understanding that it's possible for endless circles of hatred and violence to be broken. They are recognizing that a life circumscribed by sectarian and political boundaries is a life that is futile. This is the Northern Ireland of today: a place, as I wrote once before, where the future is uncertain, where there's a steely determination to reconcile with the past, and where the present is laden with so much hope and optimism.