Politicians and prelates must by their callings encourage voters and congregations to look to the future and to the progress that can be achieved with conciliation and an acceptance of change.
That’s how most nations advance, some confidently and others timidly in that familiar one step forward, two steps back patchwork. None of this, though, diminishes the importance of a nation’s past.
Martin Luther King Jr knew this. “We are not makers of history,” he declared. “We are made by history.”
There will this year be no shortage of opportunities in Cork to think about that truth at events commemorating the decisive part played by the city in 1920 during the War of Independence.
Josepha Madigan, the Minister for Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht, has spoken about the importance of that year in the nation’s history and of the need to remember them “in a measured and non-partisan manner”.
That 1920 was exceptionally bloody is beyond argument, but when we look through the history books of most nations few chapters not drenched in the stuff can be found.
There are exceptions, as Graham Greene noted in The Third Man:
A century on, it’s time to mark in Cork and recall the events of 1920, especially in a way that helps younger generations to understand their nation’s history, consider its current condition, and, perhaps, imagine its future.