HOW would the great John Hume fare now?
In an age of social media and the constant outrage of Twitter or Facebook how would a voice of moderation get to be heard?
A voice pleading for moderation in order to do the most radical things.
It would be hard not to see Hume’s humane pleading being drowned out now. Drowned out by the shrill voices of wild anger.
Even more so in the context in which Hume took action.
It is easy to forget at this distance just how poisonous and toxic the environment he moved in was.
This was not the murderous screaming of the internet. This was actual murder.
This was an Ireland of guns and bombs and assassinations. This was an Ireland of checking underneath your car.
This was an Ireland of being wary of the knock at the door. An Ireland where neighbour murdered neighbour.
It was a time and a place where words and deeds were already constantly inflamed.
What the vehicle of gutless hatred so much Tweeting and Facebook posting would have achieved in those times does not bear thinking about.
Imagine John Hume, for instance, in contrast to the spiteful outpourings of the current occupant of the White House.
How would a voice like Hume’s have competed against that. When division can be so successfully sown how would a quiet, insistent voice of calm sound?
Not that John Hume merely asked people to calm down. Not that he didn’t have deeply held beliefs.
Not that he hadn’t experienced at first hand the force and bluntness of hatred.
Not that he blandly thought that if we just all covered our eyes and ears the gunmen would go away.
John Hume attempted and achieved something truly remarkable.
For a man to leave this world knowing that men, women and children are alive in this world because of him is very, very special.
People on this island and elsewhere have avoided being shot and blown up directly because of John Hume.
They are living their lives because of his actions. They are not dead. They live. Because of John Hume. That is a pretty impressive epitaph.
Yet, again it has to be asked, how would John Hume fare now?
Imagine if guns and bombs still rained in the north and imagine the army of internet warriors raging.
It doesn’t really bear thinking about. And imagine John Hume trying to operate with that background added to the bloody one already there.
In reality John Hume would still have persevered but the environment would have been harder.
How is it that we’ve done away with the guns and the bombs but made the world harsher?
So one of the many lessons we can take from the life of this great Irishman is that we should never stop trying to make the world better. John Hume did so by saving countless lives.
A bitter Tweet or hateful Facebook post may not be in that category but if it isn’t posted the world is that little bit kinder. And that’s no little thing.
John Hume would have been the first to recognise that a job like his is never done.
The towering achievement of his life did not solve the world for good.
Even now the voices of hate and sectarian division fester on this island.
There are still those who see nothing but romance in the idea of a blood-soaked Republic.
They are in the margins for sure but a person with a gun is still a person with a gun no matter where they’re standing.
In a time of such international division we need to be aware of that.
When a Twitter troll lives in the White House we know the environment we are in.
How do you quiet those voices of spite when their cheerleader is one of the most powerful people on the planet?
We can, though, celebrate the life of John Hume. A man who took such great personal risks to stop the mayhem others seemed addicted to.
A man who insisted there had to be another way. A man who recognised that a gun solves nothing, it just causes bloodshed.
A man who recognised you couldn’t kill your neighbour and expect the world to be a better place.
A man who knew that stoking difference and resentment and division was not an achievement.
A man who made his own country a better place.
A man who acted not on behalf of himself but on behalf of others.
John Hume. A great Irishman. A great man.