The image of a young guy, relieving himself against the railings in Parliament Square at the weekend had the Establishment spluttering over their Pimms. Predictably, the case was heard in record time and the offender was packed off to jail. Like you, no doubt, I thought momentarily of those who have yet to be questioned about their crimes, including a leading retailer who pocketed the pension fund of his workers and a retired, senior, military officer who lied about the murder of civilians by State forces in Derry..
But mainly I thought of dignity and examples of those who have shown it courageously in trying and fraught circumstance; Lech Valęsa , Polish shipyard electrician and trade unionist, regularly dragged from his family home in Gdansk by the Communist authorities; Trevor Huddleston , an Anglican priest in racist South Africa who opposed Apartheid and gave his support to the freedom fighters of the African National Congress. Archbishop Tutu , in an interview, recalled the deep impression on his young mind when a tall, English gentleman raised his hat to his mother in Sophiatown; it was the future Archbishop ;the dignity on the football park, displayed by young black footballers such as Cyrille Regis who pioneered the road for a succession of black sports stars while enduring racist taunts and missiles wherever he played; the petite Rosa Parks, sitting quietly in the bus and refusing to give up her seat to a redneck; L.Alex Wilson (pictured) was a 6’3” newspaper reporter who covered the admission of nine black students into the segregated Little Rock Central High School ; attacked and beaten by a brutal, white mob he walked on, picking up his sombrero whenever he fell, intent on doing his job as a newsman; the following morning , his report of the ‘Little Rock Nine’ appeared in the Tri-State Defender ; I see the injured James Connolly, dragged and strapped in a chair for execution by an English firing squad in Dublin’s Kilmainham Gaol; the killing of an injured trade unionist caused international controversy , leading eventually to partial liberation from oppressive colonialism in Ireland.
Valour and dignity in the face of injustice leave an indelible impression. Many can quote the closing lines of Dickens’ ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ :
‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known’.