The Morality of the Aftermath of War and Civil Disorder
It is only when the fighting, shouting and hollering is over that we discern the truth of our relations with our former enemy.
1. The Issues and Their Challenges to Men.
As had been said truly by an Anglican priest, we ultimately have to make peace and friends with our enemies. The English are good at making war – are we reaching this objective of making the peace?
2. The English Experience
We caused great bitterness by our concentration camp policy against the Boer civilians in the South African War 1899-1901 – a policy thought out by Lord Kitchener to separate the Afrikaner people from their Commandoes who were fighting a guerrilla war against the British Army. Was there rapprochement between Britain and South Africa? Yes look at the South African men’s war service: Exemplary on our side during both World Wars. They were if you like good losers and we recognised our culpability for the invention of those horrific camps.
3. The First World War
This was a missed opportunity for lasting peace and Germany returned to haunt us in the Second World War. We were not prepared in 1919 at Versailles and later to enforce the peace so hard won in that Great War. The Nazis were not good losers and we lacked the strength of purpose built on the War dead of Britain and France (1914-18) particularly, to establish a lasting peace on Germany’s western frontiers, and within those borders after the Great War. Once World War II came it was too late. Peace requires strength of character as does War. We were prepared to let the Germans go, but they exacted the price of Nazi hegemony across the Continent of Europe in return from 1939-45.
4. World War II
Here Germany was pulverised and occupied by Anglo-USA military forces in 1945. The peace was enforced. The Germans allied themselves with the French post-1945 whom they had treated so badly (1940-45). The French forgave the Germans and the Germans acknowledged their guilt over the Camps to the Jews and their aggressive militarism to France and generally under Hitler. The European Union has emerged from the ashes of this conflict. The Germans have been good losers, I concede, when it came to the second time.
5. Ireland in the 20th Century
Another colonial conflict in the War of Independence 1918-1921 and the Troubles 1969-2000.What are the lessons of these deeply divisive conflicts? The bitterness of this Independence War and the 1916 Easter Uprising in Dublin, with its cruel quelling of disorder by the British has never been forgotten in Ireland and by the Irish generally. These Irish men and women have not been able to forgive themselves for Irish atrocities and misdeeds against the British Crown between 1916-1921. One wrong justifies another in their thinking. Of course two wrongs never make a right is the truth. To some Irishmen it is even difficult to think clearly on the actions of the Provisional IRA in Ireland and the Mainland: 1969-2000, and our reply to those Irish Republican operations. Our gracious Queen recently very nobly and bravely paid her respects to the Irish dead in their Field of Remembrance for fallen Republicans at the hand of English forces during the 20th Century. There is a residual Irish unwillingness to forgive the English Crown and Army for alleged wrongdoings in the 20th Century, including so called miscarriages of Justice in English Courts of Criminal Jurisdiction involving Irishmen living in England or arrested in England. The troubles themselves were testimony to mercilessness on the side of Irish Republican violence.
There are some shining examples however of rapport which bridge this sectarian and political divide during recent decades – e.g. The Good Friday Accords 1995-2000 – most importantly. The Bloody Sunday Enquiry into civil disorder on a date in late January 1972 in the Bogside Londonderry proved a terrible “own goal” for conciliation. Implacability in the Irish Nationalist reaction to the results of this Enquiry intended to pacify the Irish Nationalist lobby was very evident. The Enquiry made a number of findings adverse to the hard pressed British paratroopers and their junior officers, on the streets of the Bogside that fateful Sunday. The triumphalism of the Irish Nationalist lobby, when this Enquiry Report was released, was distasteful. There are no winners in subduing riots. Blair did much to create unity out of division in Northern Ireland: His task was considerable and he achieved a lasting peace. Thank God!
6. What Psychology May Be Discerned in These Conflicts?
You can only forgive your neighbour if you forgive yourself, and in recognising your own fault and noting your fellow countrymen’s moral responsibility for atrocities and misdeeds. There is no point asking God to forgive you and your countrymen if you cannot bring your heart to forgive yourself and your people truly. The psychology will not work. If you do forgive yourself and your nation’s misdeeds, you may go on to forgive your neighbour and your former enemy, and ask God to forgive yourself. In the aftermath of war and political violence, the Lord’s Prayer and its invocations are axiomatic. No one can fathom the depths of the psychology of another country and its people, let alone one person. The acid test is what people do, not what they say. Then a nation will be at ease with itself in the Our Father.
I look for altruism and intermingling. This embodies the international healing process. I stress the Irish in England, their intermarriage with the English, and their taking up residence in England, the USA and our former Dominions. The Irish clergy have served the English Catholic Church so well in the last two Centuries and this one. The best of the Irish have forgiven themselves and the English without doubt.
What is the meaning of the Biblical teaching that the sins of the father are visited upon the son? Christ suffered because he was the Son of God who had sent His only Son into the World to redeem mankind. Know your father, grandfather and great grandfather if possible I say. Do not pillory them, but can you learn their positive outcomes? Do not be ashamed of them – they have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. Let us respect them whoever they may be and whatever they have done, and learn a little about them one way or another. Written records are not the only way. Thus, for those countries I refer to who have at times been our enemies they will not have to do penance for their fathers. But we may come a bit close to their history. Likewise, they will understand our history. That is the morality I speak of in the title. Let us bring history to life. We are all sinners, fathers and sons. Thank God the characteristics of the father are visited on the son or we would be simply random people and faceless, with no proper identity. We belong and by that belonging we forgive each other unreservedly. Every single person we know personally deserves our forgiveness. By our forgiveness slowly and surely our former enemies will seek forgiveness for themselves in their hearts, and ultimately from God Himself.
At the end of the day we are all bad losers made into good losers by Christ Himself.