Seeing a reflection in Northern Ireland

In the 35 or so years U2 recorded music, anyone familiar with the Irish rock group’s anthology is painfully aware Bono is obsessed with the United States.

Truth be told, many of the Irish always have been. My father immigrated here with his brothers as a young man. He still has the little flag they gave him when he took the oath of allegiance. President Kennedy may be the only person outside of the Bible that he considers a hero.

I can only make half-baked guesses as to why this deep-rooted fascination with America exists. The best way I can explain it comes from when I was a comedian. Comics love poking at the scabs of American racism. So I would chat with Paul Rodriguez and after mentioning I had Irish heritage, he laughed and referred to the Irish as “the white Mexicans.”

I’ve also been referred to as “the white (insert other race here)” by other minority comics for the same reason. The conclusion to draw? Maybe I’m not on the same social level as other white folk. There were once signs on American storefronts encouraging the Irish not to seek employment there.

And yet the Irish eventually prospered here. So yeah, my brethren have an affection for the United States that it would likely never have with their next-door neighbors to the east. Simply put, many Irish loathe the British, the inevitable result of centuries of land grabs, systemic economic repression and guerrilla warfare.

Which might give you pause if you see elements of the same in the American civil rights timeline.

The British wanted to annex all of Ireland for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is improved access to the Atlantic Ocean for shipping trade and naval defense. Also, Ireland’s economy for centuries was based on agriculture, especially beef. The British look at Ireland the same way Jeff Bezos and Amazon look at brick-and-mortar stores — as an inferior target.

After centuries of struggle, the Irish believed British elites looked at them as an subordinate race prone to violence, a lack of civility and in need of the guiding hand of their superiors despite the fact that most Brits were as white as most of the Irish.

The hatred remains despite the Irish Republican Army having laid down their crude armaments. I have gone to Irish import shops where the store owner praised the right-thinking lads. In our society, we would consider those right-thinking lads as terrorists.

Despite being covered in a sheet of optimistic green clover, brimming with enchanting music and tales of mischievous leprechauns — how could Ireland not make for an ideal backdrop for a bitter, noir mystery novel? I look at Ireland the same way Raymond Chandler looked at Los Angeles.

This is what inspired me to write “Assumption Day,” which debuts Nov. 8 through the Wild Rose Press. The story takes place in Londonderry, Northern Ireland in 1970 — when a tenuous peace is threatened after young Catholics insist of civil rights and five people die. It’s up to the one trustworthy inspector in the Royal Ulster Constabulary to solve the crime before the region implodes in civil war.

To be clear, I don’t claim to have the answers for racism in the United States any more than I would the solutions for lasting real peace between the British and the Irish.

I just want a story that gets received better than the last U2 album.

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