The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Shadows
Carrie Twomey • 9 September 2003

It started out - and still is - a lovely cool morning, the kind of cool that reminds me of my childhood when the house was cold and the day seemed apart from everything, wasn't quite what would come, until it started to warm itself up.

The morning has been punctuated by phone calls regarding the man who was shot in the Short Strand last night; the last few days have been marked by others worried about family of theirs who are under threat. Last week I had written in my journal about the toll this takes:

The other day I was thinking too on all of the people I have met and come to know and the misery I have seen. When I first started living here I was very firey, and outraged, and spoke out against a lot of what I saw. I don't know if I have become assimilated or inured to what I still see. I know now the consequences of speaking out better and I probably won't share this anywhere. But I have to write it.

What did I see? Mothers, sisters, aunts, nowhere else to go but my living room to plead for some sort of help for their son, brother, nephew - who had been shot or was about to be shot or a combination of both or some other awful thing, abducted and tortured, harassed and put out of their home, beaten in front of younger siblings, tales of blood everywhere, fright. I would suppose even just knowing this, hearing these things, seeing the ...results etched in all these women's faces would affect you. Maybe it is catching up with me. Seeing the madness in some of my neighbors, brought on by the way we live here.

It just doesn't seem to have any end to it. It is a massively dysfunctional family and the legacy of abuse is already seared into the next generation. If anyone has been in a family where abuse has a history, you know what I am talking about; the secrets, the denials, everything that comes along with the abuse and persists well after the abuse itself has stopped.

How do we cope with it? Last night I was watching Law & Order Special Victims Unit and at the end of it one of the characters, a detective named Olivia, breaks down. Her partner tries to comfort her by telling her that at least, unlike the victims she tries to help, she can leave it behind her at the end of the day. And she looks at her partner with tears in her eyes and says, very quietly, "No, I can't." You realize that while she has not had to endure the rape, or the attack itself, she carries the burden of being witness to so much trauma and tragedy and horror. She can't turn it off, she can't leave it behind, and, unlike the victims, she carries in her the nightmares from a multitude of terrors, not just the single incident that brought the victims to her door.

Everyone who lives in these areas carries a similar multitude of terrors, when their neighbors are shot or tortured, when other neighbors' sons or husbands suddenly are no longer around, having to have left the country until cooler heads prevail or forever. It is not just the passing mention, as the BBC so coolly puts it in their "News in Brief" section -

Man suffers gunshot wounds

A man has been taken to hospital after a paramilitary-style attack in east Belfast.

He suffered gunshot wounds to both ankles and both elbows in the attack in Beechfield Street on Monday night.

It is the woman who makes the tea next door as the wife or daughters of the man beaten and broken bring their raw nerves and fear in with them to bear witness to what happened when the men showed up at their door. As the woman asks how much sugar or milk, as the milk merges into the tea so too does the panic and the worry and the fear merge into her consciousness. No matter if the women in her sitting room are stoic and appearing strong, or tearful and worrying their lower lip, or playing with the edge of their jumper over and over and over, that terror now becomes part of them all.

And yet it still is a lovely morning, the sunlight has that cold quality it takes on in the cool of the fall; my daughter has discovered where I hid the cookies I baked yesterday and has used her toybox as a stepstool to help her snatch some, telling me she is going to make some chocolate milk 'for the rabbit'. Beauty is everywhere around me, no matter what else lurks in the corners, the shadows, no matter what else permeates our existence here.

We go on, life goes on, and the next time we see each other, no acknowledgment is made of the horror shared. If it is spoken of, it shows - weakness, maybe. Somehow one of the rules made along the way in this horrible game was that above all else you cannot show that you were affected by what happened to you. Again, the secrets. Don't tell anyone or I'll kill you, or your mother, or your family. The underlying threat of bearing witness. You want to reach out, to offer comfort. Instead the two of you upon meeting at the shops or down the town chat about nothing and communicate with your eyes, both wondering, "Does the other remember?" Then the eyes drop and you go on about your business.

Life with fear. Living with the shadows.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

18 September 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others
Eamon Sweeney


Members of 32CSM and IRPWA Physically Assaulted by RUC/PSNI
Andy Martin


Report: Belfast Anti Racist Meeting
Davy Carlin


The Shadows
Carrie Twomey


DHSS Lives
Liam O Ruairc


Freedom and Democracy in Cuba Depend on Support for Dissidents
Vaclav Havel, Arpad Göncz, Lech Walesa


Cancun - Whose Setback and Whose Opportunity?
Michael Youlton


How Do You Like Your Elections - Fixed and Murky?
Toni Solo


Armed Struggle
Anthony McIntyre


Republican Sinn Fein commemorates Robert Emmet


16 September 2003


In The Shadow of Fear
Anthony McIntyre


Derry's Disappeared
Deaglán Ó Donghaile


Bangers on the Blanket?
Kathleen O Halloran


Dialectics of Terror
M Shaid Alam


Prison Segregation
Republican Prisoners Support Network


Letter to the Chief Constable
British Irish Rights Watch


A Jackboot on my Presscard
Anthony McIntyre


The Letters Page has been updated.




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