VOF Week 4: (Rebuilding Camelot in the Bronx)
There’s a legend carried in the mists of Britain that rolls across the seas, through the hills and valleys and the veins of all born onto its land. It tells of a place called Camelot, where the noble King Arthur and his valiant knights brought peace to a troubled Isle with a united new Kingdom, with an inclusive new government, seated in equality at a magnificent round table carved entirely from Oak.
You would never know there was almost a thousand years of conflict and tension between us as we danced together on the streets of the Bronx this St. Patrick’s Day. You with your Irish brogue and the mischievous elfin twinkle in your eye and I with my unmistakable English accent, that gets rougher with each bottle of hard Cider I drink. We’ve lived as neighbors and immigrants in this foreign land for hundreds of years. We’ve sat on my stoop drinking whiskey and beer, glad that our children play with each other - like brothers, like sisters, like family - and every time the grey skies tumble over New York we smile at each other with a wink and a nod as the rain reminds us both of home.
When I first came here, you noticed me. You saw my freckles and my pale white skin, and you knew I was just like you. You asked me if I was Irish, and No I’d replied with a smile,
“But there is Irish in my family. They moved to England to escape the famine.”
“I could tell you were Irish,” you said then, trying hard to ignore my accent and the decades of Anglo-Saxon DNA infiltrating my soul, “I can’t stand the English.”
When your family came to stay, you told me not to come over that day, because they might not understand you were friends with somebody English.
When the soldiers and the policeman were killed a few weeks ago, we both became tense,
“I thought we were at peace.”
“They said it was a justified act of war.”
Then we danced together to the Fife and the Drum, with shamrocks on our faces and pints in our hands. We cheered the pretty girls’ gigs and their reels and raised our glasses to the luck o’ the Irish. Here, on the streets of the Bronx, the mist from the sea between our Isles doesn’t roll across the ocean far enough to obscure our vision anymore. We see more clearly how our heritage is kin.
Some say the story of Camelot surging through my veins was propaganda. That it was so well crafted, so effectively marketed throughout the years, that it justified a foreign policy of conquest and invasion and the suppression of nations throughout the British Isles. I want to not believe that. I want to believe instead the Camelot I know was a real place once. That its’ turreted walls fell into ruin and disrepair because its true vision was warped.
There are women in my dreams from all over the world who dance barefoot on the ruined grounds. I am one of them. Hand in hand we dance our dance of unity. As our laughter races through the air and our feet pound the broken earth, we rouse the sleeping Knights in the hearts of our men and rebuild Camelot as it should have been.
I stand here before you my sister Eire, with one hand extended to yours and my other hand to women from other lands. Together we will dance from the streets of the Bronx, to my homeland and yours, through the tensions and the conflicts, the misunderstandings and the turmoil, until every last one of our children feels proud and safe to be exactly who they are.
Will you join me in this dance?