Another Markievicz piece re Fianna: “Love your Enemies”
Oops, somehow missed this one when I was posting up Markievicz pieces related to Na Fianna Eireann. This one appeared in their paper, Fianna, just a few months before the Rising.
LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
by Constance Markievicz
With Christmas and its joybells proclaiming the birth of the Prince of Peace came the thought: what peace can the New Year bring to us out of this wild orgy of war and hatred?
Up and down through Ireland all nature has the same message for us, “Peace and Good Will”. The merry holly berries peeping out from their warm green leaves; the sky and faithful Robin Redbreast, whom for its pitiful act we hold sacred; the donkey with the symbol of Christ’s cross laid across its back; even our own little green emblem,, all seem to call us with an ever-recurring message of love, forgiveness and peace from our Lord, Christ the Prince of Peace.
Every church, chapel and meeting house in the British Isles, aye, in the world, was dressed to celebrate the birth of the Babe who came to put the words “Love your enemies” in the place of the old cruel saying “A tooth for a tooth”.
We do not know what other countries are thinking and doing, but we do know what is being thought and done over here in Ireland. In every church where John Bull can get a grip on the soul of the clergy in charge, the Red God of War is throned on the altar of the Prince of Peace, while the message of love is suppressed and Christian men are urged from the pulpit to line up and kill England’s enemies.
All honour to those brave and self-sacrificing priests and ministers who faced the disapproval of the governing classes, refusing to give their allegiance to the God of War, and remaining true to the faith they pro-fessed.
In the wars of old days there was a sense of honour, chivalry, rough and ready perhaps, but strong and true. The foe was respected and given even more of his due share of praise, lying was abhorred, hypocrisy was not tolerated; but in this war all the old traditions are gone. We are only allowed to read one nation’s accounts of the war, one nation’s war policy – England’s. The extravagant hypocrisy of England almost strikes one dumb; one example alone cannot be thought of too often, especially in Ireland. The policy as regards “small nationalities”.
England went into the war with the cry of “Avenge Belgium”, to protest against the Germans using Little Belgium as a highroad to France. The cry has not died away when English troops pour into little Greece, using her as a highroad to Serbia and Bulgaria.
All the forces of the Great Allies are combined to push her into the war. Secret diplomacy, open abuse, the menace of ships and great guns, her food supplies and commerce interfered with. All this to make her fight against her own desires and interest. But for the spectacle of Little Belgium, she would probably have been in the war on one side or the other.
God help the small nations when they are independent, and God help them still more when they have been swallowed up and annexed by a neighbouring Empire to be civilised and ruled for the benefit of the richer and stronger neighbour.
Ireland is suffering from a new stage in the process of civilisation. Militarism is the latest doctrine that is being forced down her throat. The English army of occupation, with all its camp followers, its soupers and its castle hacks, its climbers and money-makers, are busy entrapping men into the British Army. Men with no conception of truth and no capacity for argument are lying in wait for our young men at every market place – I might say at every turn in the road of life, with threats, cajolery, bribery and misstatements.
The King’s English is very hard to understand at times. When you hear of voluntary enlistment there rises in the mind the vision of a nation of free men voluntarily fighting for love of the land they belong to, but the words “voluntary enlistment” in Ireland under a foreign government may be interpreted by those who dare as a coward’s substitute for conscription.
“No man is forced to join”; not, perhaps, by the military authorities, but every power that can secretly be brought to bear on the working man, to force him into the fighting line, is brought. The majority of the landlords, newspapers, Protestant clergy and publicans are recruiting sergeants. A Protestant can hardly go to church without being preached at; in fact, from pulpit to pub, he hears the same question: why are you not fighting?
Any man who works for his living is daily threatened by his employer that he will be “freed” from “wage slavery”, with only “war slavery” or starvation before him. The only other alternative is jail. For if you protest or argue the point, or even tell the plain truth and say, “No power on earth will force me to fight for England”, it is in jail you’ll find yourself. Jail may not be pleasant, and you are not shut of the recruiting sergeant even there, but you are fed and housed at the expense of the Government, costing them money instead of giving them your life. You have done your bit for Ireland and for Peace; you have taken your place in the line of Ireland’s fighting men, whose lives are pledged to bring Peace and Freedom to the land they love, and in your own soul will be “The peace that passeth all understanding”, God’s reward for the martyrs to duty and conscience.
Fianna, January, 1916