I have always hated the twelfth of July. Growing up in Northern Ireland while the troubles raged it's not hard to understand why. What seems unbelievable is that it still goes on today. The difference though is that the Orange Order and its celebration of the twelfth is now peddlled as "culture" and we are supposed to ignore the fact that it is/was an organisation that promotes hateful, triumphalist anti-Catholic bigotry.
Culture and the word community are somewhat overused.
I am sure (although I may be making this up) I once heard someone talking about the "serial killer community".
Strangely we don't hear many apologists for white supremacists talking about their culture.
"Honestly I know the Ku Klux Klan get a bad press but really nowadays it's just fun, dressing up and stuff, like our fathers before us, and we only lynch a dummy, not a real nig..., I mean dark skinned person."
As children we were taught to distinguish between decent people, that is the vast majority of people in our overwhelmingly Protestant area who wouldn't dream of flying flags, and the tiny handful of those who did. One family who lived just up the road from us did put up a flag and allowed their son to march round their garden banging a drum any time he pleased. It must have been hell for the people who lived next door to them.
When my parents were alive I'd often find myself at home around this time of year. Driving between their house and my sister's, I'd take the back road which brought me pass a crossroads where every year a bonfire would be built and lit on the eleventh night and would then smoulder for days afterwards. I'd look at the ruined road surface and the graffiti and it would make me really angry, partly because of the criminal damage caused. One of the things that makes Northern Ireland feel very unBritish is that a huge section of the population is allowed to break the law every year and nobody does a thing about it.
Here's the thing. Crowds of people celebrating their "culture" standing next to signs saying K.A.T (Kill All Taigs) doesn't feel very nice or friendly for those of us who find ourselves labelled Taigs.
Lots of people leave Northern Ireland at this time of the year. People in my family go on holiday. Middle class protestants leave in droves often crossing the border to spend the weekend in Donegal or Galway drinking Guinness and listening to Irish music.
As a child I used to feel almost scared of the arches that would appear during the run up to the Twelfth. We passed under one on our way to school. It seemed to me that they were there to remind us that the country didn't belong to us and that we schoolgirls in our Convent uniforms weren't welcome. We would occasionally be insulted on the school bus by the crowds of kids who were picked up from an estate built next to a mill in the middle of the countryside. To be fair those kids also bullied the protestant grammar school kids as well but not in a sectarian way.
It is depressing that so little has changed. The bonfires are still lit, the arches still go up, and at best it makes a lot of Catholics feel uncomfortable but now it's culture. Our wee sectarian country where everyone has long memories and nothing much changes.