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moments. But I must then put a question to
you: if your enemy's rights were threat
ened, what position would you take? Would
you say, "He got what was coming to him,
and I'm sure as hell not going to help
him"? Or would you say, "Everyone,
including my enemy, deserves to have his
rights respected. I cannot pick and choose
who is worthy to enjoy his basic human
If your response was similar to the sec
ond statement, then congratulations. You
have hit upon the true meaning of human
rights. But if you are unwilling to let your
enemy enjoy the same rights as yourself,
then I would challenge you to re-examine
You now have the clue to my position on
human rights. My conception of human
rights is all-inclusive, and does not mean
just "freedom for me and for people I like."
Thus, although I am disgusted by drugs,
Letters from Abroad
I am a stuffy, impatient, anal-retentive
American trying to survive Irish idiosyn
crasy in slow motion.
Dublin is a city, but people don't move
about as if it were. They mosey. The city's
train system is called the DART: Dublin
Area Rapid Transit You can catch a train
every 20 minutes, 15 if you're lucky. The
thing doesn't actually dart It meanders.
Every day I make the 30-minute walk into
town from my house, plowing my way
through hordes of Catholic schoolgirls,
dodging the many and varied pools of
vomit which prove last night's over-indul
gence, and muttering profanities at the
irrepressible little darlings who, it seems,
should be in school, but are instead hurling
projectiles at me and commenting on my
I pop into a newsagent's to ask direc
tions to Haddington Road. "Ah, yes,
Haddington Road. Well, you'll have to get
the bus, love, because it's down in Dun
(No, it's not. I know that much.)
"Ah, fer God's seke.Moira, she's talkin'
about the one in Ballsbridge."
(A dispute ensues over whether or not
there are indeed two Haddington Roads,
THE Aprll s! 1991
both of the legal and illegal varieties, I
have called for fair hearings for those
accused of drug offenses. I don't particu
larly care for gays, but I support their right
to serve in the military. Despite my preju
dice against women (I believe they should
carry federally-mandated warning labels
like other hazardous products), I have
spoken up for their right to equal treat
ment I have defended the free speech
rights of bigots, even though bigotry of
any kind appals me. I have assailed the
unfair trial which led to the execution of
Romanian dictator Nicolai Ceaucescu,
whom I personally believe to have been a
mass-murdering scumbag. And, if abso
lutely necessary, I would even be prepared
to stand up for the rights of a college
administrator. So I am not trying to ad
vance some hidden agenda under the guise
of human rights.
As a rule, I do not like extremism. Most
political "principles" are, in fact, open to
compromise and give-and-take. If no one
was willing to compromise on anything,
the business of the government would be
very difficult. But we should also be aware
of what I will call Longley's Fundamental
law of Politics, which goes as follows:
"No principle in politics is absolute, not
even this one." Longley's Fundamental
law can also be restated: "Don't carry
there is extensive deliberation over what
would be the best way to get to the one in
Ballsbridge, which is the one I believe I am
looking for, followed by a futile search for
a map and an eventual confession that they
have no idea what they are talking about.)
"Best of luck to ya, though, love."
I am a one-year student at Trinity Col
lege, the place where they filmed "Educat
ing Rita" because it looked more like
Oxford than Oxford. 1 patter about on the
cobblestone, looking around at all the angry
youth in black and listening to the ridicu
lously overbearing gonging of the bells.
It's quintessential academic elitism. It's
Sitting in my Anglo-Irish Literature
lecture, I am waiting for the arrival of the
lecturer, who is always at least eight min
utes late, for dramatic effect I imagine. He
is the image we all have in our heads of the
Irish Male: slightly rotund, with sparse,
fly-away grey hair, a plump face slightly
reddened from years of drink and an imp
ish look about him that he apparently can't
suppress. He is trying to be broad-minded,
but in so doing he somehow manages to
offend everyone in the lecture hall who has
even slight feminist sensibilities. As we
are wide-eyed young students and he is
worldly (and, perhaps more significantly,
a published post), he is entitled to hold
forth for a good 10 minutes on the neces
sity for cynicism in our approach to acade
"Never [he says slowly and haltingly,
making liberal use of hand gestures]...
never be too easily impressed by any of
anything to extremes, not even modera
There are some things which are not
open to discussion, nor subject to compro
mise, and among these things I include
fundamental human rights. I am, if you
will, an extremist where these rights are
concerned the extremist tag does not bother
me. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison
were extremists in the same way.
The year 1991 gives us a chance to look
back at some human rights history. On
December 15, we will be celebrating the
bicentennial of the Bill of Rights of the
U.S. Constitution. Thanks to the Bill of
Rights, Americans enjoy many of the free
doms they take for granted today, such as
equal voting rights, fair trials, freedom of
speech and freedom of worship. Admit
tedly, the government has not always re
spected constitutional freedoms. And
conversely, the courts have often misused
the Bill of Rights to make policy, rather
than vindicate human rights. But with all
its faults, the Bill of Rights remains an
inspiration to Americans and remains one
of the hallmarks of (dare I use such a
"politically incorrect" term?) Western
There is another anniversary which we
should celebrate this year. On May 28,
1961, a British lawyer named Peter Bene-
your lecturers here at Trinity."
However, the remaining 40 minutes of
his lecture he spends peacocking about in
such a manner that it is made obvious that
he would not be at all troubled if we were
quite impressed with him.
Dublin seems to be good breeding ground
for eccentric characters. I have a friend
named Freddy. He is a tiny, teetotaling
ladykiller of 70 who is a little short on the
teeth and hair, but heavy on animated
spirit. He uses phrases like "trip the light
fantastic," and throws little soir6es in his
rather oddly-decorated sitting room where
he bangs old dance hall tunes with great
vigor on the piano. "And now a fox trot,"
he says. He takes a little break, and,
pretending that he has dropped something
on the floor, he grabs my knee for support
as he endeavors to retrieve it.
My flatmate, Eithne, is a single working
woman in her early 40s who is convinced
that a hot whisky is the remedy for what
ever could possible ail a person. Once,
when I was in the thick of a horrible virus
of some sort, I emerged from the bathroom
after a fit of miserable retching to find
Eithne waiting with some sort of concoc
tion in hand that was supposedly going to
settle in my stomach. I instantly protested.
"What is that, Eithne?"
"Oh, it's just a little mixture of brandy
and port. It's good for settling the stom
"Eithne, I really don't believe my stom
ach can handle one of your alcoholic
son published a newspaper article about
"prisoners of conscience": men and women
imprisoned for their beliefs. This article
was the founding document of Amnesty
International, the world's most prominent
human rights organization. Ever since
1961, Amnesty has been waging a con
stant campaign for human dignity, regard
less of the political orientation of victims
I will conclude with a passage from "A
Man for All Seasons," Robert Bolt's ex
cellent play about Sir Thomas More.
MORE: The law, Roper, the law. I
know what's legal, not what's right. And
I'll stick to what's legal...
WILLIAM ROPER: So now you'd give
the Devil benefit of law?
MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut
a great road through the law to get after the
ROPER: I'd cut down every law in
England to do that!
MORE: Oh? And when the last law was
down, and the Devil turned round on you—
where would you hide, Roper, the laws all
being flat? This country's planted thick
with laws from coast tocoast —Man's laws,
not God's—and if you had to cut them
down —and you're just the man to do it—
d'you really think you could stand upright
in the winds that would blow then?
"I wouldn't tell you it works if it doesn't,
now, would I?"
I take it, not wanting to make a liar out of
Eithne. It works, and I am humbled.
And one should never dispute the me
dicinal powers of Guinness (the culmina
tion of human progress) brewed right here
in Dublin at St James Gate.
There was a blood drive at the college
about a month ago. Being always enthusi
astic about giving blood, I attended. As I
was being drained, I inquired about the
type of free eats which would be made
available after my donation (always very
"Oh," says my vampire, "we give you
milk, soft drinks, biscuits, a pint of Guin
(Just about popped the needle right out
of the vein.)
"You give a pint of Guinness to a person
who has just given away a pint of blood)"
"Oh, the Guinness is lovely and rich in
iron. Doctors prescribe it for pregnant
I had my doubts, but I decided that it was
best to keep them to myself.
The Guinness enthusiasm can at times
reach a pitch of frenzied idolatry. Out for
an evening of smoky, stuffy, cramped pub
hopping, I return to my group of acquain
tances with a freshly pulled pint of Guin
"What a beautiful pint," someone says.
The pint is taken from me and passed
around the group for personal enjoyment
"Ah, yes, it's lovely."
Those young Irish.