Being Irish Part Five–Angry

Lean with ear lobes curled like bacon fried to within an inch of its life; early baldness in the genes; parsimony born of deprivation; anger, anger, anger leeching into every human exchange but rarely surfacing except in tight threats to “correct” others. My picture of the Northern Irish Protestant man. If you want to see examples, check out the actors who play Belfastmen in The Fall, the excellent BBC thriller with Gillian Anderson playing a British detective.
Then check out the actors playing Catholic IRA sympathizers in James Marsh’s film Shadow Dancer. A different race. I remember them with full heads of hair, sensual, redder-faced (all that booze), and strangely, in my memories less angry than the Protestants I grew up with. God knows the Catholics are supposed to be the angry ones, and they’ve proved it. Maybe their deadly anger seems less threatening to me because it was always taken for granted. (We stole their country.) Northern Irish Protestant men had less justifiable reason for their anger, except perhaps hatred of the Other.
It seems to me that Northern Irish Protestant men’s anger is rooted in having to maintain an indefensible position, which destroys self-respect: an alcoholic arguing that booze played no part in his three DUIs; a pornophile arguing that the young models in a world of shattered personal boundaries, drugs and prostitution aren’t harmed by doing what he watches.
When I moved to London, I found that most English didn’t know the difference between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and maybe you don’t. Northern Ireland was colonized by Scots and English Protestants in the early 17th century, an attempt to quell rebellion against English control. The Irish of course continued to rebel. And the colonialists, not exactly the cream of society, were as brutal and ignorant in Ireland as anywhere else, the natives treated as disposable savages. I’ve been called Paddy plenty of times by English yobs.
Despite the brutalities on both sides down the centuries, this seems the basic truth to me: the Northern Irish Protestants don’t belong there. Maybe that denied knowledge and the bone-deep manipulations of self that denial requires, is the basis for the anger I remember in Northern Irish Protestant men.
There are plenty of other reasons for my own anger.

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