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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What's in a Name?

By Steve Poole

"Travel has taught me the fun in having my cultural furniture rearranged and my ethnocentric self-assuredness walloped."
Rick Steves 
Travel as a Political Act
    As I look back at my notes and photos from this class, it is hard to believe that it has only been a week since I entered this vital and  complex city.  My knowledge and understanding of Northern Ireland and the "troubles", has grown immensely and still I feel that I am only beginning to get a glimpse of what the struggle has been.  This past week has been a whirlwind of new information, faces, viewpoints, and experiences that all tell the the history of this place.  It is a story of pain and joy, hope and despair.  My heart has been touched and transformed and my ideas and assumptions have been challenged and changed.  In the words of Rick Steves, I have definitely had "my ethnocentric self-assuredness walloped".  While it has been eye opening and at times exhausting, it was what I expected and hoped for.
    What I did not expect was how elusive the "truth" would be.  I don't mean this in the sense of dishonesty or some kind conspiracy.  What I expected to find in this journey was a clarity of what was the true story.  Who was the victim? Who was the villain?  What was blocking the path to peace?  What I am finding is that there is no one singular truth.  There are communities whose experiences, beliefs and memories of the same events vary dramatically depending on where they were standing in that particular moment in time .

     The best example I can give is the name of the city itself.  Is the name Londonderry or Derry?  The answer is yes.  Depending on who you are, what you believe, what you have endured or who your people are, you either live in Derry or Londonderry.  It is one city, but it isn't.

    This is the challenge faced by those who work towards peace.  How do you bring a community into a new journey together when they do not share a common past?  I have learned a great deal about myself and about the grace and resilience of the people of this community.  While I no longer seek the "truth", I now seek wisdom as I continue to learn from these brave and courageous people as they simply seek to live their lives in peace on a journey into the future.

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