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This fact did not sit well with Margaret Thatcher or the rest of the British establishment. And of course, it shouldn't have; his election was a direct rebuke of Thatcherite Britain and unionist Irish politicians. The British parliament responded accordingly and, when his death was announced in the body, they omitted the traditional condolences for him and his family.
I'm sure many will see this as an endorsement of Sands and the IRA, but it isn't. I'm in fact not really taking any position at all on Sands, the Troubles, northern Irish republicanism, or assorted issues. But I am insisting: Bobby Sands was an MP. Why? Because it happened. Because his election was an act of protest. Because regardless of whatever tangled thoughts I might have about a conflict I can't possibly understand beyond the hypothetical, I respect protest, dissent, and resistance. And because I am with Haruki Murakami:
"Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg."If you never have, you should read that entire piece. I admire it deeply and without reservation. I admire it in large part because it is so alien and out of place with the edifice of American political commentary, with its narrow definition of seriousness and the endless efforts of its members to demonstrate their fidelity to some strained, false notion of legitimate argument. With its idealism, its categorical moral statements, and its utter fearlessness about using terms like "the System" that seem almost designed to encourage snickers from the endlessly savvy political consciousness of this country, it amounts to a thorough rejection of that mode and all its assumptions. For that reason I celebrate it.
Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide.
To see that attitude in action merely check out some of the comments on that piece, where the discourse police mock Murakami and condescend to define what it means to speak responsibly about politics. The permanent attitude towards convictions such as Murakami's, and mine, is incredulity, and the insistence that those convictions can exist only insofar as the are ill-considered or unexamined. I can't tell you how often I encounter actors in the political discourse (the connected, or those who wish to be) who say, "you can't really still think that. You can't really still argue that. You can't really still read that. What year is this? You lost this fight a long time ago. Responsible people don't argue that way." What is generally not countenanced is the idea that I could have heard the other arguments, known the history, learned the context, and chosen to believe what I believe anyway. A politics like mine is supposed to be embraced only within quotation marks. I am meant to believe what I believe only so long as I drown it in irony or signaling or the counterintuitive. Something to show that I am not one of those, that I have gotten with the times.
There is, I'm sure, some commitment to acting out. Murakami, again: "I tend to do the exact opposite of what I am told. If people are telling me -- and especially if they are warning me -- 'Don't go there,' 'Don't do that,' I tend to want to 'go there' and 'do that.'" This commitment, too, to being a punk, to resisting conformity, to rebellion for its own sake-- this too is generative and important. I don't want to be cool with you. Nothing could be a more glaring sign that I need to correct my course than if I get credit from the with it, the connected, and the cool.
So: between the high hard wall and the egg, I will always choose the egg, no matter how right the wall, no matter how wrong the egg. Between prison guards and the prisoners they beat and terrorize, I will always choose the prisoners. Between the powerful nation and the men who starve themselves to death in protest against it, I will always choose the protesters. I don't claim that their stance is right or that my choosing is responsible. Others will have to decide what is right or what is responsible.
I don't have a stance on the IRA. I don't and can't reconcile the protection of innocent lives with the IRA's actions. I have no opinion on the blurry lines between the revolutions we like and the terrorism we don't. I am saying very little, except to say, on his birthday: Bobby Sands was an MP.