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16 October 2014
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Kevin Connolly

Kevin Connolly is the former editor of Belfast's free magazine BLT (Belfast Life Today), plus the property magazine The Hothouse, a supplement of the Sunday People. He has had twenty poems published in books and magazines, and he is currently completing his first horror novel. He has written over fifty comedy short stories, and lives in Belfast.

Requiem for a Country Divided by Kevin Connolly

Egbertalia was a peaceful country, apart from the huge line dividing the two sections of Christianity straight down the middle. Traditionally, the Catholics loved the Protestants. The Protestants said they loved the
Catholics more, but the Catholics said that was a lie. How dare the Protestants claim that the Catholics didn't love the Protestants more than the Protestants loved the Catholics.
Graffiti started to appear on walls all over Egbertalia:

When the Protestant and Catholic leaders met on a TV show to try and quell the situation, each tried to hug and kiss the other to prove that he loved his foe more than his foe loved him. Eventually they were both arrested as they sprawled around the television station floor, arguing:
“You're much better than me!”
“Rubbish! I'm not good enough to wipe your nose!”
People in the ghettos began to break their own windows and vandalize their own property. They were convinced, after years of brainwashing by their forefathers, that they weren't worthy of living in the same town as their foes. A wall had to be erected between the Catholic and Protestant estates, to prevent the opposing factions from smothering one another to death with too much cross-community love.

Protestants started marching in the name of 'Equality for our Catholic betters'. But disapproving Catholic onlookers formed a rampaging mob and began to throw stones at themselves, ordering themselves to 'Get back home where we belong!' The Protestant marchers rushed to their aid, and tried to stop the furious Catholics from beating themselves up. The leaders of the two main Churches went on television to appeal for calm. In their struggle to show their followers which one of them loved the opposing creed the most, the Archbishop gave himself a black eye and the Cardinal broke his own nose.

Protestant politicians proposed that all Egbertalian Protestants be shipped back to Dongidonia where they belonged. In response, Catholic politicians ordered their fellow Catholics to flee the province and go to live across the border in the Egbertalian Free State. Catholics began to cross the border in droves, while Protestants bought one-way boat-tickets to Dongidonia. Eventually the Egbertalian Free State put padlocks on its borders to keep the Catholics out, and Dongidonia filled the sea with flour, turning it into a thick, sticky mess so that the Protestants couldn't sail across it. The Egbertalians weren't allowed to leave their province, no matter how much they wanted to fight for their enemy's rights.

Trying to please their Catholic neighbours, the Egbertalian Protestants started to fly the Free State purple, pink, amber and brown quadricolours from their bedroom windows. In response, the Catholics began to fly the Dongidonian red-and-yellow polka-dot skull-and-crossbones from their lavatory windows.

In a desperate attempt to try and ensure that the Protestants always maintained their majority, Catholic paramilitaries began to indiscriminately shoot their fellow Catholics. Their Protestant counterparts replied by shooting the Protestants, trying to reduce their majority. Protestants turned out in their thousands to mourn every time a Catholic was buried, and the Catholics did likewise at Protestant funerals. It had reached the point where every time a member of one community died of natural causes, the opposing creed thronged the streets and vowed swift and painful revenge upon themselves.

Both sides began to swat themselves like flies. It was in their very blood. For generation upon generation, each side of the sectarian divide had been brought up to love the other side but to hate themselves. As an inevitable result, the province changed religion en masse. All the Protestants became Catholics, and all the Catholics became Protestants. It was the ideal solution to an age-old problem.

After countless years of confusion, the whole population of Egbertalia knew exactly where they stood. The formerly-Catholic Protestants hated the Catholics, and the formerly-Protestant Catholics hated the Protestants. Egbertalia was a happy land at long last. Egbertalians were totally free to love their neighbours, just as their beloved God had commanded, as long as they didn't kick with the other foot (an Egbertalian amendment to the ninth Commandment).

Alas, just like in the days of old, the self-proclaimed philosophers had to go and ruin everything. They ask a searching question:
If the Catholics once hated the Catholics, and loved the Protestants so much that they eventually became Protestants themselves, and the Protestants who hated the Protestants and loved the Catholics became Catholics, was it not intrinsically true that each community was still really only hating itself, in the transposed personification of its once-beloved enemy? The question was unavoidable.

As a result, Egbertalia has now become a somewhat confused land. Egbertalians aren't at all certain why they are actually fighting with their fellow Christians, although most are happy to know that there is probably a very good reason for it…they just don't know what it is. Sometimes it's best just to get on with your own daily life and continue to harm who you are already harming, because if you ask yourself too many questions, you may find that you don't have any answers to explain why you do what you do. And, after all, surely every sane man in Egbertalia would rather lose a few members of his own beloved family and friends to the bomb and the bullet as the price for the right to cold-bloodedly murder a few innocent civilians from the opposite branch of what is basically the same religion, as opposed to the unthinkable alternative of no deaths on either side of the Egbertalian community? Surely be to God that is not too high a price to pay for a bit of fun?

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