Thursday, February 23, 2012
Parish Church, Louisburg, County Mayo, December 2011. On tour with Claire.
Speaking Truth to Power – Marie Colvin remembered
Marie Colvin’s life will not have been in vain if we can do something to save the people of Homs in Syria who, while we drink our cappuccino or walk our dog, are being slaughtered on our watch.
We thought that after the Holocaust mankind would have learned to turn away from inhumanity. We felt comfortable that the terrible murder of millions of Jews, Gypsies and Mentally ill was safely preserved in a time capsule ; it was when the world went mad, in another time, in another place by another people.
As we get older, many of us feel we get wiser, which is simply perhaps recognition of our youthful excesses. Many of us get less courageous as we advance in years and hold onto to the dwindling days of our lives more tightly than we did in our twenties. We can feel less secure and surround ourselves with familiar places and possessions.
Marie clearly was an exception. She could have retired ten years ago and made a good living from her memories while drinking Gin and Tonics on a Caribbean beach. But she felt driven to expose injustice where and when she found it. She simply could not bring herself to retire in good conscience.
I often fear that our big institutions for good works, the Churches, the United Nations, Amnesty International, become ossified over time and calcified with bureaucracy. The courage and vision of the founders is inherited by people with mortgages to pay and families to rear. People like you and me.
Speaking truth to power was first used by Quakers in the States in the early twentieth century when they encouraged their Government to stand up to seemingly irresistible forces of Communism on one side and Fascism on the other. The phrase is often incorrectly attributed to George Fox, founder of the Quakers. It may not have been something he actually said, but it is something he actually did with his life and suffered in prison many times for it.
Prophets it seems can often be difficult people to know and love. However Marie seems to have been the exception. There is genuine mourning among her journalistic colleagues. She has held up a mirror to their better selves and has shown that grubby phone hacking scandals do not completely define them. If proof were needed she confirmed that the fair sex is not the weaker sex, as we married men know all too well.
Marie’s mum spoke with grief and poise and dignity. Above all let us not forget why Marie died and let’s write a letter to someone somewhere arguing for change, for peace, for the carnage to stop before the night falls. She must not die in vain, and that is up to us.
She has done her bit.
May she rest in Peace!
On reflection, I am sure she does.
PS I have decided the lucky recipients of my letter will be the Russian and Chinese Ambassadors to Ireland.
PPS Read Jim Muir’s lovely piece – his last letter to Marie on the BBC