I am fairly certain that some people will be offended by what I am about to write. It's not that I'm setting out to offend anybody, but it is said that the truth sometimes hurts. And what I am about to write is the truth, the generally unspoken truth about how some people in Britain - mainly England - felt about the horrific events that were commemorated yesterday. It wasn't everybody who felt like this and the view was rarely uttered aloud. Many who did feel a little like this also felt guilty that they should have even thought like this. But it seemed to me like a sort of undercurrent, something unseen that was lurking just beneath the surface. It was a feeling that I think I can best describe as a sort of smug satisfaction; a sort of "now they know what it feels like".
In the years before 9/11, we in the United Kingdom, especially and in particular in Northern Ireland, had been going through what are euphemistically called "the Troubles". It was more akin to a bloody civil war. On the one hand were the Irish Republican Army and its various offshoots who wanted the six counties of Ulster, Northern Ireland, to secede from the UK and become part of the Republic of Ireland, Eire. On the other hand were the Unionists, who wanted fervently for Northern Ireland to remain a part of the United Kingdom. Just to make matters worse, religion came into the equation with the Republicans being Catholic and the Unionists, Protestant. Both sides were guilty of atrocities, but the general feeling was that the IRA was the more evil.
Although the Troubles were confined in the main to Northern Ireland, the IRA exploded several bombs in mainland England, notably in Warrington (2), Guildford (also 2), London (another 2) and Brighton, nearly killing the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Lord Mountbatten, the Queen's cousin, was killed by a bomb on his boat when sailing off the Irish coast.
It was believed that the IRA raised much of the funds needed to buy arms and explosives from the Irish community in the USA and there was a certain degree of anger that Americans were financing terrorism in the UK. It was that anger that gave rise to the feeling "now they know what it feels like".
Believe me, I take no pride in the fact that many of my countrymen felt this, even if they didn't say that they did. Even those who did feel like this shared the outrage, the hurt and the grief. John Donne had the right of it when he wrote, "No man is an island".