In college days there was a graffito,
“The meek shall inherit the earth,
if that’s alright with everyone else”
It had probably been doing the rounds for decades, it wasn’t even particularly funny, but it was true. Gentle people get trodden on. One man said to me once, “If you walk in the middle of the road, you have to expect to get run over”.
Being trodden on, getting run over, is probably a fairly Christian thing to happen, doesn’t Jesus say that we can’t be his followers unless we take up our cross and follow him? The trouble is that it is not much fun to be always on the losing side.
Moving to Northern Ireland when not much more than a kid, I had high ideals about peace and reconciliation. I believed that right thinking people would surely vote for parties that tried to bridge the divide. I was quickly disabused of my naivete.
I remember one council election when we, and most of the people we knew, voted for the Alliance Party, in fact, I suspect we could have written the names of most of the Alliance voters in our ward because the total vote didn’t go much beyond most of the people we knew.
In the sixteen years I lived in the North, I never once voted for a candidate that managed to get elected. Perhaps my vote was some sort of electoral albatross, perhaps I should have advised the candidate not to be preparing a victory speech because I would be voting for him (in Northern Ireland it was usually him).
The first time in my life that I voted for a candidate that was elected was for Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council elections in 1999; for all the difference my vote made in the four different constituencies and council areas where I lived in the North, I might as well have stayed at home and watched the telly.
The Northern elections in March 2007 had, for me, one bright shining light. When Naomi Long was elected on the first count in East Belfast, I shouted with delight – the Alliance vote there had doubled. As the results came in, it became clear that Alliance would win a total of perhaps seven seats, not much compared to the DUP on one side and Sinn Fein on the other, but, for the meek, not a bad result.
Four years on from that tortoise-like step forward, the meek have taken another step, gaining eight seats in the Northern Assembly elections in today’s results. If such a rate of progress continues, they will not be in sight of a majority until late in the 22nd Century, but seeking after power was never the object of being meek, seeking after peace was. Watching the progress over four years, the day may come when the Alliance Party will feel its mission fulfilled.