Being Irish Part Four—Micks and Proddies continued

Until I read Colin Broderick’s book That’s That I didn’t know how little I know about the subject on which you might suppose I’d be an expert. I didn’t even know whether to call myself a Prod or a Proddy (Proddie? I believe the name appears only in the plural in Colin’s book, so he was no help.) I knew to call him and his people Micks but I didn’t know what they called me. How could I, when we had nothing to do with each other? Not a conscious decision we ever questioned, more something bred in our bones.
Unlike Colin, I was born in Belfast. He was born in Birmingham, England, although his parents moved him back to their Northern Irish home when he was two months old. Discovery of where he’d been born was enough for his schoolboy fellow Catholics to accuse him of being one of the hated English.
I could fill a book with what I don’t know about Northern Ireland, the place I lived until I got out when I was 17. Until recently I thought the Battle of the Boyne, a victory by William of Orange which Ulster Orangemen celebrate with an inflammatory parade every July 12, took place in Holland! Until I read Colin’s book I didn’t know that Northern Ireland measures roughly only 60 by 60 miles. I thought it was quite a large country, almost none of which I’d ever visited. (How in God’s name could I have so little curiosity about the place where I grew up? One reason: I was trying to forget it.)
Until I read Colin’s book I didn’t know not only quite the extent to which Northern Irish Catholics’ hatred of the Brits consumed them, but also how Northern Irish Catholic nationalists despised Irish Catholic nationalists from the south, responsible for abandoning them to the Brits. (We Prods didn’t hate the English, we just thought they were sissies. On the first of my only two visits back to see my family, they melted into puddles of embarrassment in the drizzle at the airport because I’d got into the habit of carrying an umbrella. Real Ulstermen didn’t carry umbrellas. Though I could write another book listing the ways in which most of the men I grew up with didn’t and don’t fit my notion of what a real man is.)
I’m not entirely stupid. I have a summa cum laude degree from Columbia and two master’s degrees to prove it. I have perfectly logical—almost perfectly convincing—explanations for why I’m so ignorant about a topic on which I should be an expert. And I can explain at least one of the reasons I assumed Colin Broderick and I must have a lot in common. We are agreed on the truth about the topic on which Northern Irish Catholics and Protestants so bitterly disagree. I, a Northern Irish Protestant, had no right to be in Northern Ireland. MORE TO COME

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