Friday, April 8, 2011

From Inside a Jail Cell

Kilmainham Gaol, like most Irish words, is not pronounced like it's spelled. If you're struggling with this one, try Kill-may-num Jail. There you go. It held several leaders of the 1916 Uprising, including some of the most famous Irish politicians of the time- Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera. I can't say I have been in many prisons in the past... That's probably a good thing. But it was really interesting to get a tour of this early 1900 jail. We even got to sit inside one of the cells. They were so small! I can't imagine what it must have been like, sitting there day after day, wondering if you would be freed or executed.
It was especially fascinating since the rest of the day we spent more time learning about the people who were kept there. Later that afternoon, we went to a museum that talked more about the Rising. We even played dress up and tried on military uniforms like they would have worn. Our reflection day finished with a trip to the cemetery where all these famous people were buried.
It was funny, de Valera was president of Ireland, while Michael Collins was only Minister of Finance and Head of Intelligence during the rebellion. But Collins grave was so much bigger and more decorated! I guess de Valera was right when he said, "It is my considered opinion that in the fullness of time history will record the greatness of Michael Collins and it will be recorded at my expense." This evening we watched the movie Michael Collins and it ended with this quote. For good reason too! Collins had to make some hard decisions. How do you fight against the greatest empire in the world? Is guerrilla warfare moral? Should he sign a treaty with Britain? De Valera just cowered in the corner and let Collins do all the dirty work. Then when a treaty was passed, he turned his back on Collins and started a Civil War!
It is crazy to think that these two men were once friends. I guess that's what rivalry and greed can do to a person. It really makes you stop and think. Collins died at age 31, but he was able to accomplish so much. De Valera, while still an important leader, has nowhere near the reputation of Collins even though he died at age 92. No matter how long I live, I want to be remembered as someone who was willing to tackle the hard topics, even when finding a solution seemed impossible. I refuse to cower in the corner and let someone else do the work I hear God calling me to do.

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