I can never make up my mind whether it is a good thing to be part of a Stamp Collecting “forum” or “group”.
There are two good reasons why I don’t associate with other stamp collectors. The first reason is that I am NOT like other stamp collectors. The second reason is that I AM like other stamp collectors.
Take a post I made on a forum about a month ago. I showed a pic of some Irish kiloware I had just received and noted I had some sorting to do. So far…so benign.
A fellow member of the forum noticed a Che Guevara stamp in the middle of the pile of stamps and asked tersely what country was issuing Che Guevara stamps. Another member said “Ireland”. I did not get involved in the discussion but watched it develop. Poster #1 was amazed as “Ireland is a religious country”. A third poster leapt on him “Ireland is not religious…Che had Irish blood”.
Other posters jumped on the bandwagon “would Ireland issue a stamp for Adolf Hitler?” “Or Timothy McVeigh” (ie the American mass murderer who was the Oklahoma bomber.
I emphasise that I was not involved in this discussion. It was certainly an eye-opener. I did not report my discomfort to the moderators who have a mission statement about politeness and respect. But as the moderators let it pass, it is either a measure of their lack of observation or worse…they agree with the comments.
Let us unpack this.
Why did Ireland issue a stamp commemorating Che Guevara? Well the publicity states he was “a revolutionary, physician, author and diplomat”. The official First Day Cover has the famous quote from Che’s father “in my sons veins flowed the blood of Irish rebels”.
The proposal for the stamp passed the scrutiny of the Stamp Committee of An Post and got approval from a government which is “centre-right” in European terms.
But of course Republic of Ireland was born in violent revolution. Few Irish folks regret it. In fact we are rather proud of it. Freedom is rarely given. Sometimes it has to be taken. Sometimes very brave men and women stand up for what is right and sometimes they (mostly) win.
The Irish Rebellion of 1916 was a centrist and leftist revolution. It leaves a legacy where even a centre-right government has an ethos that is supportive of Freedom…whether it is Latin America or Palestine.
It is Who We Are.
But is there a contradiction in a religious country honouring Che Guevara? Well the person who leapt into the discussion to say that Ireland is not religious is also wrong. Simply put, Ireland is both religious and not religious. It is not so binary. Recent Referendums supporting Equal Marriage and Womens Right to Choose was supported by both people who are religious and not religious.
But was Ché “Irish”? Well certainly he had the heritage. He visited in the 1950s. The iconic image of Ché is by an Irish artist, Jim Fitzpatrick. But many like me (a socialist) wear a Che Guevara Tshirt. Whatever our politics, it is a symbol…as much about counter-culture as socialism.
Of course the Timothy McVeigh comment is just plain stupid and provocative.
And Adolf Hitler? Well that’s a bigger statement. Lets unwrap that.
Ireland and World War 2 is an old chestnut. Ireland was neutral? Was it?
Unlike the other parts of the British Empire, Canada, Australia and New Zealand…Ireland did not follow the “Mother Country” into War. A sore point with Britain as the Anglo-Irish Treaty( that ended Irelands War of Independence less than twenty years previously) saw Britain lose several port cities in 1938. And that certainly damaged Britains war effort in the Atlantic Ocean.
Yet when Belfast in the “UK” was attacked by the Luftwaafe, the Irish government sent their fire engines into Belfast, a flagrant breach of neutrality and warned the Germans that an attack on any part of Ireland was an attack on all of Ireland. The Germans never came back and “Northern Ireland” was just about the safest place in the “UK”. I don’t suppose the Germans were quaking in their jackboots at the thought of the Irish fighting them. But keeping Ireland neutral was important.
So Ireland was neutral…just like Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg etc. Ah you think I am right about Spain and Sweden but wrong about the others. Well, they WERE neutral until they were attacked. And that was also Ireland’s position.
And er ….the United States of America was as neutral as Ireland. So why the criticism?
When I was a teenager, I had a friend who was a very good amateur boxer. I used to think that was cool but as he often said, his skill meant that he could not respond to challenges by other young men. Just smile and walk away.
Having a History degree and being on an online “Stamp” forum is a bit like being a very skilled boxer in a crowded bar. No matter the provocation, the boxer cannot punch an incompetent hoodlum. And no matter the provocation, there is no point in me arguing with an idiot.