I have a little more than a passing interest in the politics and history of Ireland and Northern Ireland in particular, from whence my father’s family of 17th century Scottish transplants emerged.
One of the blogs I follow on this subject is the Unionist blog Slugger O’Toole which offers very thoughtful commentary on Irish and British politics from a Unionist – but not sectarian – perspective. It is very hard not to conflate the two when discussing Northern Ireland, Glasgow or Liverpool-based football, or Canadian history (yes they all have a Protestant v Catholic underlying animosity). This is especially true if you only know a little bit about what you’re talking about. The more you know, the more nuance you will find.
And so here this morning, buried in this review of a new personal history of Ireland by Fintan O’Toole is a really nice succinct quote about sectarianism:
…here we have the essence of sectarianism, the inevitable by-product not of misunderstanding, but of understanding to the point of caricature without compassion and human respect. Such an environment could only fail to foster a political culture able to sustain the give and take of a mature democracy. It made the recourse to violence more immediate and appealing.
That is really a good and useful description of a dynamic that usually unnecessarily complicates the already complex politics of colonization and conflict. It strikes me that overcoming dynamics like sectarianism is work that can be done by each of us personally in order to engage with the bigger issues of policy and politics that affect all us collectively.