Fort Worth 912
Saturday, February 13th, 2010
I was born in Dublin, Ireland 38 years after the 1916 Easter Rising in which a band of Irish patriots rose up against oppressive British rule of their country. After an initial success in taking over the Dublin General Post Office, the rebellion eventually failed. The leaders, heroes to the Irish people, were summarily executed.
When I was young my mother used to sing to me the Ballad of Kevin Barry, “just a lad of 18 summers who proudly held his head up high.” Despite worldwide protests, including a plea from the Pope, Kevin Barry was hanged by the British for refusing to tell the authorities the names of his accomplices. “Men like Barry will free Ireland” goes the song.
I had heard my mother tell the tales of her own mother who manned the barricades outside the General Post Office, bringing aid and comfort to the rebels who were fighting to free their nation. I always thought those stories were fanciful, that mom may have exaggerated the role that Granny O’Hagan had played in the uprising. It’s all true, she told me. She’s listed in the Book of Honor in the Museum of History in Dublin.
When Renee and I went to Ireland on our honeymoon in 2008 we visited the Museum of History. After sifting through some old, dusty archives we finally came across the Book of Honor. It listed all the names, written in their own hand, of the people who participated in the 1916 Rising, the battery they manned and the units they fought with during the rebellion. Although it was against the museum rules, I used my cell phone camera to take a picture of the page I was seeking. There, in clear and distinct cursive, was the name Annie O’Hagan. She was not yet 20 years old.
I have often thought of Annie O’Hagan, dead now over 30 years, in the days since I took that picture. What was she thinking when she manned that barricade, as British tanks rumbled through the streets of Dublin, firing their cannons point blank into the Post Office where the leaders of the rebellion, her friends, lay bleeding? What courage does it take, what commitment to freedom and country and cause must one summon at so dear an age to risk all for liberty. I wondered then and still wonder now whether I would ever have the resolve to face the bullet, to stand down the tank, to stand before the gallows.
For the past year we have struggled to cope with a government just as potentially threatening as that which Annie O’Hagan faced. No, we are not going to be summarily executed but we do face the uncertainty of never knowing what tyranny has in store for us. We face the great unknown of rule by elites. We have gone from Father Knows Best to Government Knows Best in the blink of an eye.
There arose among us in the past year someone who offered us hope, someone whose voice and vision registered with ours. Someone, we believed, who spoke for us and our values. She was running for office.
I first met her last May at the Old South Pancake House in Fort Worth, which for reasons beyond me is a favorite meeting and dining place for local politicos. She spoke for 40 minutes or so and although her delivery was not yet refined she spoke with a truth of conviction and belief that resonated. I said to Renee when we left that I agreed with everything she has to say. Too bad she doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of winning, I said.
As the months passed we followed her and her message sharpened and became more refined as she gained confidence that her ideas were resonating with the people. We marveled as the crowds coming to hear her swelled from 25 or 50 to 100 to 200 to 1,000 or more. We found great joy as her poll numbers moved from nothing to 4% to 8% to 12% to 24%. She could actually do this, we began to believe. She could actually win.
Unfortunately, others had the same belief: This woman, this upstart, might actually win. But for them the feeling was not one of joy, no sense of triumph for the common man. It was one of fear. This was not part of the script. So she was drawn into an ambush and attacked. One only has to remember the story of another Irish hero, Michael Collins, to understand exactly what went on that day. The royalty must be preserved, the bloodlines must go on, no matter the cost.
So an alleged populist hero sold his soul in a Faustian compact with the power elite. He must be so proud. Sadly, such things happen all the time and history is rife with false icons. Welcome to reality. But we must never forget, painful though the lessons might be, that true belief begins first with self. Believe first in what you know is right and let your own instinct be your guide.
What do we do? Give up? Run away? Support the power elite? I think Granny O’Hagan would look down at me from heaven with a disapproving scowl and remind me of the song of Kevin Barry, that lad of eighteen summers whose death did free Ireland. Kevin Barry, too, was a Republican.
In Mountjoy jail one Monday morning
High upon the gallows tree,
Kevin Barry gave his young life
For the cause of liberty.
Just a lad of eighteen summers,
Still there’s no one can deny,
As he walked to death that morning,
He proudly held his head on high.
If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me on the barricades surrounding Debra Medina.
President, Fort Worth 912 Project
This article was posted: Saturday, February 13, 2010 at 5:25 am