A tale of two cities -By Alana Easterling

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“So are we in Northern Ireland, or just Ireland?” A question that we’ve all had since we arrived. Today, our confusion came to an end thanks to Paddy Campbell’s Belfast’s famous black cab tours. “Northern Ireland” is home to the Protestants. They consider themselves to be British, and are loyal to the queen. “Ireland” is home to the Catholics. They view themselves as Irishmen, and simply that.

A local was somewhat offended when he overheard us referring to Belfast as Northern Ireland, and let us know we were in Ireland. Now, I think it’s safe to say he was Catholic. For years there’s been a war between the “two cities.” I say cities because the people involved in the battle have created separate communities for its members to reside. The Peace Wall that cuts through the middle of the town, divides these two communities. This wall is never opened- not by police, not by the ambulance, no one. According to the tour guides, people from each party don’t cross the wall into one another’s territory. One even mentioned he was Catholic himself, and aside from work, he doesn’t go on the Protestant side of the wall.

I found myself somewhat confused. I questioned why exactly the difference in religion caused such an uproar. My specific tour guide, Sean, explained that the issue became larger religion- it was about identity. How ironic- us Americans have issues with identity as well. Instead of religion though, some of us still think it’s cool to dislike and/or mistreat people because of skin color. I couldn’t help but to correlate the two.

As the tour continued, So did the learning. Out of curiosity, I asked for Sean to compare the race war in America to theirs. Protestants would be Caucasians, and the Catholics would be African Americans. We were taken on both sides of the wall. To me, the Protestant side was nicer, more upkept- like a white neighborhood. The Catholic side seemed to be the opposite. It looked like more of a ghetto area- like a black neighborhood.

I found myself so interested in their stories. Protests still happen to this very day- four months at a time, every year. From June to September, protestants hold bonfires and marches to celebrate the defeat of the Catholic king by the Protestant king. These aren’t your normal bonfires though. We even seen the beginnings of a bonfire being built. Things that look like crates are piled on top of one another to build bonfires that are hundreds of feet high. The issue though doesn’t arise from people simply protesting. The real trouble comes when the protestants decide to go outside their domain to do so. That’s when the rioting starts.

Supposedly, an attack made by the Protestants on the Catholics is where the idea of the civil war came from… or it might’ve been the other way around, haha, don’t quote me on that part🙃. Either way, innocent people, children as young as 15 were shot dead for no real reason. Sound familiar?

In all, I discovered today that our world isn’t so different after all. Stupidity, hate, and long overdue issues are things that a country 3,490 miles away from the U.S. are dealing with as well. Maybe one day things will change. Maybe one day, we all will realize that it’s perfectly fine to love one another regardless of race, sexuality, religion, size, etc.

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