“It is not those who can inflict the most, but those that can suffer the most who will prevail.”
The Rhythm of Time
By Bobby Sands
There’s an inner thing in every man,
Do you know this thing my friend?
It has withstood the blows of a million years,
And will do so to the end.
It was born when time did not exist,
And it grew up out of life,
It cut down evil’s strangling vines,
Like a slashing searing knife.
It lit fires when fires were not,
And burnt the mind of man,
Tempering leandened hearts to steel,
From the time that time began.
It wept by the waters of Babylon,
And when all men were a loss,
It screeched in writhing agony,
And it hung bleeding from the Cross.
It died in Rome by lion and sword,
And in defiant cruel array,
When the deathly word was ‘Spartacus’
Along with Appian Way.
It marched with Wat the Tyler’s poor,
And frightened lord and king,
And it was emblazoned in their deathly stare,
As e’er a living thing.
It smiled in holy innocence,
Before conquistadors of old,
So meek and tame and unaware,
Of the deathly power of gold.
It burst forth through pitiful Paris streets,
And stormed the old Bastille,
And marched upon the serpent’s head,
And crushed it ‘neath its heel.
It died in blood on Buffalo Plains,
And starved by moons of rain,
Its heart was buried in Wounded Knee,
But it will come to rise again.
It screamed aloud by Kerry lakes,
As it was knelt upon the ground,
And it died in great defiance,
As they coldly shot it down.
It is found in every light of hope,
It knows no bounds nor space
It has risen in red and black and white,
It is there in every race.
It lies in the hearts of heroes dead,
It screams in tyrants’ eyes,
It has reached the peak of mountains high,
It comes searing ‘cross the skies.
It lights the dark of this prison cell,
It thunders forth its might,
It is ‘the undauntable thought’, my friend,
That thought that says ‘I’m right! ‘
Happy Cinco de Mayo! If there happens to be a margarita on an outdoor patio in your future sometime this afternoon or a mint julep while watching the Kentucky Derby, you might lean back in your chair, close your eyes while enjoying the sunshine on your face and tip your glass to the heroes and martyrs for justice and freedom that have come before you.
May 5 is the anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands, a 27-year-old IRA leader who died in cell block H after a 66 day hunger strike. By the time Sands died he was an international celebrity, having been voted into Parliament and a symbol of British injustice in Ireland. Sands sacrifice and the sacrifice of 9 others who followed him in death as the result of the 1981 hunger strike that raised the awareness of the conflict in Northern Ireland and paved the way for Sinn Féin as a political party.
There is cosmic coincidence that Bobby Sands died on Cinco de Mayo, a celebration of the defeat of Napoleon III’s forces in Puebla. Mexico in 1862. Napoleon had sent an army to expand the French empire into the Americas by taking control of Mexico. Although not a major strategic win in the overall war against the French, the Battle of Puebla represented an important symbolic victory and bolstered the morale of the resistance movement. An ill-equipped group of 2,000 men, lead by General Ignacio Zaragoza, outnumbered more than three to one, withstood a day long siege and then routed the French forces. More than 500 French soldiers died in comparison to fewer than 100 Mexican patriots. The battle of Puebla marked a turning point in the Mexican revolution and five years later in 1867, in part due to increasing military support and political pressure from the United States, France finally withdrew.
Cinco de Mayo is not a celebration of Mexican independence, which had been declared more than 50 years before the Battle of Puebla. Independence Day in Mexico (Día de la Independencia) is September 16, the anniversary of the revolutionary priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s famous speech “Grito de Dolores” (“Cry of Dolores”), a call to arms that amounted to a declaration of war against the Spanish colonial government in 1810 and an end to the tyranny of the privileged colonial land owners that had invaded Mexico and subjugated the Aztec people.
All great revolutions begin with the same underlying truth, that corrupt governments that come to power and stay in power by suppressing human rights, will inevitably be brought down. All governments that create and then institutionalize inequality and foster injustice are doomed. Father Hidalgo, Spotted Elk, Terence MacSweney and Bobby Sands all knew that the rhythm of time would prove them on the right side of history.