St. Patrick and the Borders

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, but we don’t have big plans. The parade and the celebration at The Shamrock over on West Douglas took place Saturday, presumably so that everyone could get the hangover out of the way before heading back to work, and there doesn’t seem to be anything else on the agenda in this not very Irish town. With all due respect to Ireland, however, we will wear something green to ward off the pinches, put an old Van Morrison record on the turntable, hoist a beer, and hope that the Emerald Isle lives on in something like it’s current shape.
Hanging on to national territory is getting to be a trickier proposition almost everywhere these days. Ukraine just lost a big chunk of itself to a dubious referendum overseen by Russian soldiers, and the rest of the erstwhile Soviet empire is nervously watching the west’s weak response. China also seems intent on extending its claims far into the South China Sea, at the expense of Japanese and Filipinos who are also no doubt wondering what happened to the good old international order, and any other tin pot would-be revanchists out there are probably figuring that now’s as good a time as any to stake a claim. The once great nations that used to impose peaceful borders on unfriendly neighbors are preoccupied with holding on to their own as territory, as Ireland’s neighbors in Scotland are considering bolting the United Kingdom, Venice is contemplating a break with Italy, and the Quebecois’ latent yearnings for independence from Canada have lately been reawakened. Similar secessionist movements are popping up everywhere, from Puerto Rico to California to the more easily disputed regions of Asia and Africa, and there’s no telling what the maps will look like by the end of the Obama administration.
Ireland should look pretty much the same, we suppose, unless “the troubles” somehow recur. Although we are not well-traveled outside the United States we did once drive almost everywhere in Ireland on a trip with the old man a few years back, and found it a lovely country full of friendly people, although the inebriated fellow urinating on our hotel window in Dublin wasn’t altogether atypical. There was an eerie abundance of European Union flags and a strange lack of Irish flags, and nothing to mark the border with Northern Ireland except that the pubs demanded payment in Pounds rather than Euros, but there was a distinct sense of nationhood that we expect will survive a few more years. The nationalist sentiment was even more apparent on the next week’s tour of Scotland, also a lovely country full of friendly people, although we did have to dodge a particularly rough bar brawl in Edinburgh, and we wouldn’t be surprised if Great Britain is missing a big chunk of itself soon.
That’s nobody’s business but the Scots’, we suppose, but when the lines are re-drawn with soldiers and warships and a complete disregard for the agreed-upon rules it always ends in trouble. When the nations responsible for enforcing the rules can’t keep themselves together, it’s even more troublesome.

— Bud Norman