We like to think our problems are unique but they’re not. Just the way we manage to screw up efforts to resolve them.
The New York Times had an article a couple of days ago about two Mexicans academics who are trying to establish a museum to recall what Ulysses S Grant called “the most wicked war ever waged”. It was the war between Mexico and America and it was less about principles and more about land-grab. At the battle of La Angostura, the Mexican side could have defeated the out-numbered Americans - not least because hundreds of American troops deserted and chose to fight on the Mexican side. These were nearly all recent immigrants, and among them was an Irish unit called the San Patricios, or St Patrick’s Brigade. The reason there was such desertion from the US forces was because many among the ordinary foot-soldiers on the American side were Catholic while most of their officers were Protestant and many of them suffered from what the New York Times calls one of the US’s ugliest flaws: prejudice, in this case directed at Catholics under their command. Despite the San Patricios and despite the superior numbers, however, the Mexicans were defeated and the Americans emerged victorious. Many historians believe that’s because the Mexican general, Santa Anna, had yielded to one of Mexico’s ugliest flaws: corruption. He did a deal and left the field to the Americans.
But these two Mexican historians are intent on building up the Angostura Battle Museum with relics from the battle, including a glass case full of broken earrings:apparently many Mexican mothers followed their sons to battle, so they could tend them when and if the need arose. The academics have planted a ‘peace tree’. Every year they come to this spot, sometimes with people from the Irish consulate. They are working so that “the war without satisfaction” doesn’t determine future relations between the Americans and Mexicans. “We don’t want to relive this war; we just want to remember it”.
Do you know, maybe it’s the Halloween madness getting to me, but I could have sworn someone here talked about a peace centre somewhere so people here didn’t have to relive the past conflict...Nah. I must have been fantasizing. Good on the Mexicans, though. They’re doing what’s necessary to stop the past paralysing the future.