Irish flag

The Irish flag.

Less than a fortnight ago, on July 12, I was reminded of how the scars of history can run very deep and lasting, but also of how well they heal when treated properly. This is a lesson America must learn quickly.

In 1690, the Battle of the Boyne was fought in Ireland between the forces of the deposed Catholic King James of Scotland, Ireland and England and those of his son-in-law, the Dutch Prince William of Orange. The battle was decided on July 12 in favor of William. James fled to France, and the reign of co-regents, William and Mary, was secured.

This, however, also secured the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland; a political, economic and social domination of Ireland by a small minority of new protestant owners of stolen land. This minority would be represented by the color orange and a reign of terror would lead to many rebellions whereby in 1798, a group of Protestants and Catholics together sought to form a new republic for all to live peacefully, with a new flag that had both orange and green, and white between them. England and the Protestant extremists defeated the United Irish rebellion and the Orange Order was formed to enforce the minority reign.

Why is this important, you ask? This battle brought about a division steeped in hatred that continues still today. Ireland’s history is wrought with injustice, including the genocide of the Great Hunger. Ugly wounds and scars resulted, and new ones inflicted.

In 1916 the Irish began a partly successful rebellion whereby they proclaimed that tri-colored flag again for a republic of all Irish people, regardless of their history. The British carved out a gerrymandered region creating a protestant majority in a state they called “Northern Ireland.” This has been a bone of contention in Ireland ever since. Two factions, Irish Republicans and Unionists were born.

In the late 1990s great statesmen brokered peace, seeking a new society for everyone. This bastard state has been divided by hate and bigotry for centuries, making this no short order. First, the two histories had to find a way for them to live as one people in a new united Ireland, for all.

One of the issues to be resolved was that of the Orange Order. Each July 12 they conduct parades to commemorate the victory at the Boyne. The problem with these is that they were designed to be divisive, sometimes even violent. Their main purpose was to put the nationalist population in its place and let them know to stay there.

As reconciliation begins to grow between these two communities since the Agreement of 1998 we have begun to see these parades become mostly peaceful. The reason for this is the lesson that America needs to learn. The nationalist population recognizes that for the two communities to coexist they must be respectful of each other’s history. It is imperative that for the Protestants to be joined into the republic they must be allowed to keep and celebrate their history. History cannot be changed simply because another part of the community does not like it. Division is destructive.

This is our lesson. Being offended by the reminder of a history you don’t like is divisive. Move on. Protesting every piece of history you don’t like is childish. Energy should instead be invested into now, and the future.

Trying to erase history is ignorant and destructive. Like it or not, it is our history. Being a nation of hatred and whining is not who we are.

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Timothy P. Cotton is the National Director of Operations for the Alliance Party and a resident of Culpeper.