Will God Forget Me?
By Lance Lee
People have debated for more than a century over who was at fault for the largest recorded tragedy in Irish history. Whether it was the lack of intervention by the British government and her refusal to implement the appropriate laws to ensure the well-being of the Irish citizens, or what some may say the inability to escape mono-agricultural society which left the Irish people dependent on a faulty crop; thus susceptible to famine. One fact remains irrefutable: Irish Catholics experienced a horrific tragedy in the 19th century.
In the book: Death Dealing Famine, Author KK reverberated the idea that prior strategies implemented by the British government had failed on several occasions throughout the book. Thus lamenting her perspective on who’s at fault for An Gorta Mor; however, I think that it is an unfortunate misconception not to examine the many factors that contributed to the travesty so that we can not minimize the societal zeitgeist which contributed to the many deaths during the potato famine.
I grew up in the Christian and Catholic church and it wasn’t until Kinealy referenced the changes that took place in Catholic Ireland during and after the Blight where I began to understand key differences from Catholicism and other denominations of Christianity. Catholicism approaches reality with more of a position of fate; whereas, Baptist, Methodist, and other denominations approach life with more of a tabula rasa view. I don’t believe that it would be “far-fetched” to assume that many Catholics in Ireland fed into the belief propagated by the Protestants that it was in God’s will that the potatoes became infected and that those who died as a result, was in their fate. However, we can almost witness the evolution of the Irish Catholics after the time of the famine: individuals who once view life as ordained began to fight back against the British government. No longer will Irish Catholics be view as weak, gullible, or complacent. While borrowing the inspiration of the Black nationalist movement which began in the 1920’s and the civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s, and Black Power movement of to follow, the Irish evolved from downtrodden a la resistance less than 100 years after the potato famine.
One begins to wonder, how many millions more would have perished under British rule if it were not for the English transgressions during the famine? Many scholars have categorized the events during the An Gorta Mor as a genocide. But when I compare the potato famine with tragedies such as the Trail of Tears, and genocides of the Albanians and Kurds, differences arise. Genocide includes the targeted attempt to exterminate a nation based on their ethnicity, race or religious beliefs. Even though the British parliament’s policy failures can be construed as purposeful neglect which contributed to the emigration and death of several million Irish citizens, I have yet to come across literature which suggest that the British army partook in mass or subtle execution of Irish Catholics between 1845–1852. I do believe that the British government’s inaction is consistent with the actions of countries who partake in “Ethnic Cleansing” which is defined by Britannica as:
“The attempt to create ethnically homogeneous geographic areas through the deportation or forcible displacement of persons belonging to particular ethnic groups. Ethnic cleansing sometimes involves the removal of all physical vestiges of the targeted group through the destruction of monuments, cemeteries, and houses of worship.”
This practice was made evident with the introduction of the penal laws in 1690 (19) which essentially established the genesis for systematically oppressing the Irish Catholics on their land rendering them voiceless, powerless, and without representation. Kinealy references the condescending nature in which the British regarded the Irish in the book, Death-Dealing Famine.
As I read literature about An Gorta Mor, slavery, the rape of Nankin, the Holocaus and other tragic events, it’s not hard to understand the perspective taken by many atheists when arguing against the presence of a divine being, and I often use the fishbowl concept as a close analogy to best explain the discrepancy of mankind: If you have ever been to an aquarium or owned a fish tank, You take care of the fish, feed the fish and make sure that your fish are in a conducive environment. Sometimes the fish may turn on one another, sometimes they may kill or hurt other fish in the tank. These actions sadden you like, God is saddened to see his fish hurt one another, but our free will is diminished when a higher power interject in every dangerous scenario, how then would we learn, decipher, or ever care to tell the difference between right and wrong if divine intervention will save us from or discretions. Just like all of the aforementioned tragedies, man also had his fingerprint on the potato famine.
Man is judged by his ability to help his fellow man during disastrous times, given that the potato famine, which millions depended on for food, nourishment, and commerce went sour, Britain’s inability to retain Peel and corn laws or provided adequate protection to the poor, rendered them a failure.