Yesterday I found myself in Lisburn, a small town situated south of Belfast; though it was not my intended destination. I was headed to Hillsborough, once the seat of power for Northern Ireland. I had imagined that Hillsborough would retain some of those qualities, that I had erroneously and optimistically applied to the whole of Europe goaded by naïveté. Under a stupor of romanticism, I fancied that Europe had remained stagnant, a bulwark to advancement, however it had excelled in the social aspect. After all, Europe had abolished capital punishment and was 50 years ahead of America morally.
But I have come to realize the idiotic blunder I committed. Europe is a strange place to my soundly American mind. But it is no more stagnant than America is advanced. Both nations — I cannot think of more apt word to describe these political entities — have been transformed, driven by their particular circumstances. To compare Europe and America is to compare apples and oranges. America’s tendency to see itself culturally juxtaposed as opposed to being on antipodes with Europe is more traditional than realistic. The differences between us may be slight, however they are singularly important.
Yet, I don’t wish to discuss Europe. Europe is a beast unto itself that I cannot fathom objectively; my conceptualization of the world has been shaped by an American education. As a child I looked down upon the whole notion of ‘Manifest Destiny’ — I was a humanist after all. It was an egoist and delusional sense of grandeur heavily intoxicated with that rustic and rudimentary thing we call nationalism. But I cannot honestly say that I felt it to be absolute rubbish. Somewhere in the dell of my mind where the real me prevaricates against the me that is shaped by humanist ideals, I believe: America is great!
Anon Lisburn, it is a gritty place, grittier than Belfast! Ah gritty is a perfect word to describe Belfast, but do not take this to imply that Belfast is an ugly city, no, far from it. Belfast has character! It lies not only underneath the grime that obdurately hangs on like nasty, rank and sticky sweat on a sweltering summer day upon the façades of multistoried buildings, but in the grime itself. It is as if Belfast is saying: “I don’t need to doll myself up, love, I am real and substantive. I needn’t have plastered on my face layers upon layers of makeup; I am no whore.”
Aye, Lisburne is grittier! As the train progressed further south from Belfast, the grime increased; the stations are more unkempt. Rust and dirt mingle harmoniously; they are cozy in each other’s arms. They compliment one another.
And this is all I have to say for Lisburn and its teeming streets; they were bursting at the seems with shoppers!