Day 2 – Cultural Tour and History Reflection

Today, our class had the honor of meeting with Dr. Sylvie Kleinman who toured us around part of Dublin.  Sylvie studied history and translation in Paris and lectures in Irish history at Trinity College.  It was clear right away that she had an abundance of knowledge about Ireland and the history.  She taught us about the Isolde’s Tower and how it was unearthed during an archaeological dig in 1993.  She showed us the town hall and how it is symbolic of how well the Irish did regardless of the conflict with the American colonies.  She even explained the meaning of the Irish flag:

  • Green: associated with nationalism during the 1978 rebellion.  It is also the color of shamrocks which relates to Saint Patrick.
  • White: symbolizes peace and harmony
  • Orange: Relates to King William III when he became King of England in 1688.  After he became king, the country had an extremely protestant view for 70 years.  Also, in Holland, he was from the house of orange.  This part of the flag represents the loyalty do Protestantism.

My favorite part of the tour, however, was the Dublin Gardens.  These were laid out on the site of the of the Dubhlinn (‘Black Pool’ in Gaelic), from which Dublin gets its name.  The gardens are actually designed to be a helicopter landing pad, with a pattern of six interlocking brick pathways (inspired by Celtic design) that are distinctive from the air.  From the ground, we were unable to get a great view of what this design actually looks like, but I was able to do some additional research online and find it.

During the tour, it became clear that our class didn’t know a ton about Irish history.  Many of the topics covered by Dr. Sylvie were completely unfamiliar to us.  In fact, I had to write down some notes about particular discussions so that I could go back at a later time and learn more about the origins of varying occurrences.  One thing that was obvious was that the people of Ireland are often uncomfortable talking about certain parts of their history.  One aspect, for example, was the public notice that was posted on the path of our tour.  The wall had been vandalized, but the message was still clearly visible.  It listed the names of children with the date on which they died.  The most shocking part was that most of these children were under 12 months old.  The notice read as follows:

“After decades of cover-up of the abuse of children, the questions of what was done to children in Irish constitutions, how it was done and where it was done have been answered in painful detail, but other more difficult and more disturbing questions remain: the questions of why this abuse was allowed to happen and what is to be done now, for the future.”

I wanted to learn more about this piece of Ireland’s history, but it was clearly passed over due to the sensitive content.  I wonder if this is because it deals with the death of small children and the Irish are probably ashamed of this aspect of their history.  Likewise, Americans have many parts of their history that may make citizens uncomfortable.  In my opinion, one of these topics that is extremely relevant today is school shootings.  The earliest recorded school shooting in U.S. history is the Enoch Brown school massacre which occurred on July 26, 1764.  10 were reported dead and 2 were injured.  After that, the next school shooting didn’t occur until November 12, 1840 in Charlottesville, Virginia where a law professor was shot by a student.  Fast forward to today and those statistics have increased dramatically.  Research shows that more people have died or been injured in mass school shootings in the United States in the past 18 years than in the entire 20th century.  As of April 20, 2018, there have already been 20 school shootings where someone was hurt or killed.  This means that there are 1.25 school shootings every week on average in the United States during this current year.

Discussing this issue makes me feel uncomfortable because it seems as though school shootings are becoming extremely common.  The only times when school shootings are talked about widely is when the casualties are high.  It is far too often that I log onto social media and see a heading such as “School Evacuated After Shooting Occurred Shortly Before a National School Walkout for Gun Control Measures.”  Everybody is willing to post about sending “thoughts and prayers” on social media, but there are few who actually take the steps the reach out to the public or political leaders in order to make a difference.  It’s uncomfortable to me because I think it’s terrible how people can make comments about another school shooting occurring, but it barely brings up any discussion or concern.  Many of the people who are actually making a difference are those who experienced the shootings first hand.   Explaining this issue to someone who knows very little about my country would definitely be a challenge.  The cultural differences are shocking, especially since cities like Dublin have guardians who don’t even carry guns.  I would detail stories of previous school shootings and elaborate on situations especially containing to gun control in the U.S.

A major difference I’ve noticed is that people in the U.S. often discuss these topics, even if there aren’t major measures being taken to correct them.  In Ireland, however, the locals seem to avoid any topics that may be sensitive or uncomfortable.


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