This article originally appeared in the New York ‘Irish Examiner USA’ for 23rdh April 2013
Everybody Should like Everybody: but, Andy, They Don’t and They Never Will
A good few years ago I was on holiday in France with my then partner. Whilst wandering around Cannes I came across a shop that was selling framed prints. One caught my eye: it was Andy Warhol, complete with hideous white fright wig and inscrutable expression; alongside his Halloween image was a quote from him that went: I THINK EVERYBODY SHOULD LIKE EVERYBODY.
Maybe it was a moment of whimsy but I bought it for my partner. She was always—and still is—the kind of person who thinks that there’s good in everybody, whilst I just think that is one of the most laughable ideas I ever heard. Some people are just rotten to the core and we have to live with that. Anyway, opposites attracted for quite a few years; but as Agent Summerset said roughly in the movie Se7en: “Anyone who spends a significant amount of time with me tends to find me disagreeable”.
Still, we remain very good friends—in fact she is pretty near my best one—and I was up in her house this week and staring thoughtfully at that print from another lifetime. And I thought: OK, it’s Andy Warhol and it’s the kind of lame, phoney, throwaway line that he would come out with; and it’s an utter impossibility as well, but just the same… it’s not a bad sentiment: I THINK EVERYBODY SHOULD LIKE EVERYBODY.
Well, maybe you guessed it and maybe you didn’t. I was thinking of the sheer, utter pointlessness of the Boston Bombings. Everybody doesn’t like everybody. Some people don’t even like themselves, so making that little extra leap might be a bit much for them. What did the perpetrators think that they would achieve? They put a bit of effort into this senseless act, so I’m thinking that they must have had some sort of objective in mind. Well, let’s see: we’ve been talking a bit more about Chechnya in recent days. People who haven’t thought of it in years (present!) and people who never even heard of it in the first place are offering their two cents’ worth. I’m going to try to stay away from that because it’s only Monday as I write this and it will be weeks before we know anything really concrete; if indeed we ever do.
Everybody doesn’t like everybody. The plain fact is that there are people who actually hate and despise our relatively simple way of life. And I mean that just as I write it: most of us live a relatively simple life. I doubt that mine would be considered untypical. I enjoy a pint in my local and enjoy a difference of view with others there. We can do that here without killing each other, you know. We can even have a laugh about our vastly different take on things. In some countries—and yes, I’m looking at the guys with the towels and the beards—that wouldn’t be allowed. In fact, just across the pond in England there have been two recent instances where Muslims have, during a university debate, attempted to segregate the men from the women. And I’m talking here about non-Muslim men and women—in their own country! The mind boggles. In the first shameful episode some saps were willing to stand for this. In fact it was left to an American, who was due to be on the panel, to walk out.
I would love to see them pull that stunt here. We’ve gotten soft but I surely hope that we’re not at that stage quite yet.
Another thing I love is going to the movies. And guess what? I can watch damned near anything I want to see. It can even be–*gasp*–a film that is critical of the Catholic Church. I may have a snipe at mad Catholics but a lot of that is in fun and taken in the way it is intended. Try that mellow joking approach with our Muslim brothers. Try writing a colossally boring book that had a teeny little inoffensive (to us) passage in it like The Satanic Verses and you get a sentence of death slapped on you! Draw a Danish cartoon that is funny—funny! —and you have more death threats! Over a freaking cartoon!
Some people out there do not like everybody else. They actually hate our easy-going lifestyles and our freedom of speech. Nor can we even say that they are envious of it. Personally, I would prefer this: that they are envious because they don’t live here and enjoy our freedoms. Instead, many of these warped, twisted nutcases live right alongside us. Many of them are even of the same nationality and enjoy all the freedoms that we do. Yet instead of moving to wherever it is that they admire so much they choose to stay and fester in their hatred right alongside us, smiling in our faces and plotting our destruction.
Does that sound over-the-top? Does that sound like some sort of Invasion of the Body Snatchers paranoid Brady fantasy? Sorry, Mum; maybe at one time it would have done. Do you still think so?
Simple Freedoms that some don’t Want us to have.
So: I have the freedom to have an alcoholic drink; I have the freedom to watch whatever film I wish and to read whatever book I want. Here’s another one that seems to do in the heads of some of our less enlightened fellow human beings: I have the right to ask out any woman I wish who is over the age of eighteen. Now in fairness the chances of one saying ‘yes’ might be problematic, but the fact remains that it wouldn’t be considered wrong. In fact there is not a single thing to stop me asking out a female who is Chinese, African-American, Indian, French…take your pick. It’s another of those ridiculous freedoms that we have and which some people hate. I can ask out a lady from any race. In fact I can ask out a GUY from any race without being stoned to death! Imagine that. Now I haven’t touched on interspecies relationships yet but after seeing that gorgeous green woman in the rebooted Star Trek movie I think we should be working on it. Just a suggestion.
And here’s one that will rock the world of any self-respecting Allah-worshipper: a woman has the right to ask a man out over here. In fact it happens more often than it used to. Word seems to have gotten around amongst the fairer sex that since we managed access to books, movies and women who will tell us exactly what they want, Irish men have moved on from the days when foreplay amounted to a cry of: “Brace yourself, Bridget!”
From what little we know for sure at the moment, one of the bombers—Tamerlan Tsarnaev (26), who died—had begun to find the life he saw around him in America as ‘amoral’. So I’m guessing that Tamerlan would have found my simple life to be utterly beyond the pale…for the reasons outlined above.
But Tamerlan enjoyed another freedom in common with me. He had the freedom to quit his country at any time he wanted to. Hell, I write sentiments against our government all the time; yet I am happy in the knowledge that I will not be locked up for those sentiments. I am happy that we will get a chance to vote them out and replace them with someone else. Sure, we may have very little of a choice on who that will be—but we do have one. I like the freedoms that countries like America and Britain and France and Ireland and dozens of others have; and I am DAMNED if I will sit back any longer and listen to the kind of self-righteous whiners who were immediately out of their boxes and onto the airwaves before the smoke from the Boston bombs had even dissipated.
The kind of contemptible Unionist jokes in Northern Ireland who were immediately announcing in their gloomy, humourless, Protestant wisdom that this was payback for all the Republican money raised in Boston. You know what, lads; we’ve gotten to be quite fond of you coming out with ‘judgement of God’ claptrap like that over the years—it gives we semi-sane people in the Republic a bit of a laugh—but does that Old Testament God of yours never think that there might be a time and a place to start mouthing out of you? Have you ever heard of compassion?
The other thing that was thrown around endlessly was how many had died in Iraq the previous day. Was every life not equal? Why were we so upset over the deaths of three people and the maiming of dozens of others when there were thousands of innocent lives that we should have been crying about?
Yes. There were and will continue to be thousands who die for **** all that I can see. But—again—maybe this isn’t the time to be discussing American foreign policy.
You want the truth? Do you want me to speak the unspeakable? I didn’t cry for those who died in Iraq because I’ve never been there and I don’t know anyone from there. I was hurt for those in Boston because I’ve been to America and I like Americans and Boston has given a lot of work to Irish people.
I’ve been to Mexico more often than I’ve been to America and I love the place. So when I see the latest atrocity that has taken place there I cry for a beautiful country and beautiful people that I’ve shared a lot of laughs with.
We only have so much love in us to give and most of us keep it for people that we know. I’m sorry that we can’t all be hippy-dippy ‘love the whole human race’ lecturers but we can’t; and I’m damned if I’ll apologise for feeling more heartbreak towards what happened in America than what happened in Iraq. That only makes me human; it doesn’t make me a monster.
Just for a change, and considering the week that’s been in it, let’s try to finish with as much of an upbeat note as we can. Remember that if terrorism means anything then it is literally the spreading of terror. If you start to be timid about the way that you live because of something that these people who hate us have done…then they have won.
I came across this yesterday (Sunday) on an Irish news website called the Journal. I don’t know Larry Donnelly, but he’s a political columnist here with IrishCentral.com. He is also from Boston:
“Notwithstanding the cataclysmic acts of terror on September 11, 2001, which were caused by planes that took off from our Logan Airport, I’ve always felt completely safe, and actually quite insulated, when I’ve been back there, even when I visited in those difficult days just after 9/11. This feeling of comfort stemmed from a belief that Boston was a relatively inoffensive, tiny little place compared to what remains the financial capital of the world. It will take some time for this comfort to return. And when it does, it will be after a period of conversely uncomfortable, tightly enforced security measures.”
So where’s the optimistic ending to this week’s column?’ says you. Well, back to Larry:
“I’ve been heartened by the expressions of solidarity I’ve heard from countless Irish people who have such a special affinity with the most Irish city in the U. S.”
And maybe that’s why we were a bit more upset about this one; and maybe—just for a little while—it might not be a bad idea after all if everybody liked everybody.