Graphic

On 5 May, 1981, after 66 days on hunger strike in Long Kesh prison (“The Maze”) , Bobby Sands became the first of ten men to die in a protest for political prisoner status.

Earlier this year, O’Brien Press published a graphic novel, written and illustrated by Gerry Hunt and coloured by Matt Griffin, detailing the life, struggle, and death of Sands, entitled “Bobby Sands; Freedom Fighter.”

I am in no way associated with O’Brien Press, or those involved in the creation of the book.

However, I did purchase it, despite the following; the book was condemned by the Sands family, on the grounds that it contained personal family matters and that they were not at any time consulted concerning it’s writing or publication.

It was also roundly condemned by Unionists on the grounds that graphic novels/comic books are often marketed towards children; unionists felt that the book set a bad example, glorified terrorism, and were also incensed that part of the funding for the book came through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland/National Lottery.

For anyone who doesn’t know the history behind this tragic story, it would be well worth your while to investigate it, however briefly; space limitations do not allow me to give full details.

After buying the book, and reading it many times, I decided to give a review.

Then I thought better of it; I already have my own opinions on the matter, and so I decided to employ a fresh pair of eyes, so to speak.

After months of careful consideration, I decided to let a young person read it, and give his opinions.

Do not try this at home.

This is not a book for young children unless they are extremely mature, and have sound parental guidance. When I asked my friend to read the book and review it, I repeatedly stated that he did not have to do so, and that if, at any time he felt disturbed or uncomfortable by it, that he was more than welcome to stop.

He wouldn’t. What follows is a brief, verbatim review; I asked some questions, my friend gave his honest answers. There was no prompting on my part, no opinions of my own given, no indoctrination of any sort.

“What did you think of the book?”

“I thought it was creepy and gross. Did this really happen?”

“Yes.”

“I want to punch somebody right now. Can I punch you?”

“No, you may not. Would you care to elaborate on your opinion of the book? Did you like the artwork?”

“Not at first, but after awhile, I did. I didn’t like the killing, though.”

“Nobody likes the killing. Do you think these men were terrorists?”

“No. I don’t know. It’s hard to tell with all these British people in the way.”

“They’re mostly good people, you know.”

“I know. I can’t believe you won’t let me watch “The Walking Dead” and you let me read this.”

“Eh. Does this book make you want to be a terrorist?”

“No.”

“Would you ever shoot a man?”

“No. Not unless he was trying to hurt me.”

“Would you ever go on hunger strike?”

“Yes.”

No hesitation.

“What? Really? ”

“If I had to make a point, yes. I would.”

Some might find my little “social experiment” despicable; I can understand that.

I did it for a valid reason.

I was six years old when Bobby Sands was the first of the hunger strikers to die.

News of his death, and the men that followed him into death, was on the radio and the television.

My father always had an opinion on everything, and was not afraid to share.

This time was different.

I kept asking him, over and over again, “Dad? What’s going on? What’s happening?”

He wouldn’t answer. Just kept chain smoking and staring at the television.

So I went to my mother. I vaguely remember her saying, “Jesus Christ, first my dad, then John Lennon, now this. Will this shit never cease?”

She had her back turned to me when she said this.

“Ma? What is this? What’s going on?”

She spun around and smiled and said, “Nothing. Nothing at all. Off to bed, now.”

It was at least two years before they explained something of the situation to me.

Kids have a way of finding out the truth about everything.

Especially things you think you’re trying to protect them from.

Better to give them guidance, different points of view, and discuss issues with them in an open and honest way.

Many thanks to Tom Elliot for making such a fuss over “Bobby Sands, Freedom Fighter.”

I wouldn’t have bought it otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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13 Responses to Graphic

  1. Glad U are posting again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. oglach says:

    Glad to be back. Thanks for reading.

    Like

  3. Would you go on a hunger strike to bring awareness to a cause?

    Liked by 1 person

    • oglach says:

      Would. Can. Have. It’s a very effective form of last-ditch communication, because people are shocked that you’re willing to give up eating for principle. The first few days are the hardest; after that you sort of go on auto-pilot. But I don’t think I could go to the death. I lasted long enough to get what I wanted (less than two weeks) but even just that left me traumatized to the point where I kept waking up in the middle of the night to check the fridge and make sure there was food in there, even though I knew there was. I’d do it again, all the same. Thanks for reading. Those men were very brave and deserved better.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Such a disturbing reality… I think it was important that you remarked upon it. So many of us live such insulated lives, we’ve lost the ability to understand the needs and passions of others. Most interesting was your experiment with the graphic novel and the child; I say it did do one thing it set out to accomplish — it made an indelible memory for the child. For good or ill would depend on the child, and so it is unfortunate if it is just “out there” to be discovered. But as a teaching tool, it has power… because we ALL should be disturbed that a fellow human being felt the need to starve himself to death to be heard at all. If change is ever to come, it must start by listening to all of the conversations… even the disturbing ones.

    So welcome back… Your own voice has been sorely missed in our community!

    Liked by 2 people

    • oglach says:

      Thank you for your comment. It was very thoughtful. Using a graphic novel as a teaching tool might not seem to be the best means of educating a child, but it works; hopefully it works for the best.

      Like

  5. A graphic novel is a perfect tool for teaching a child! I have no seen the book but imagine the illustrator would have toned down much of the horror and that the words would have carried most of the force. I disagree with whoever stated that graphic novels are for children and marketed to them. Comics fall into that category but graphic novels are definitely for an adult market. Younger people may read them but they are mostly read by and targeted at a mature audience. I think your experiment was a good one. I also applaud the child for soldiering on even though he didn’t like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. skat says:

    My father being a Belfast man, this news was talked about in our house, but me being a blossoming woman in university in Toronto, I wasn’t paying much attention, to be honest. I can tell you, however, that I have seen “Some Mother’s Son”, although it was years ago now, wasn’t it? I think asking your “friend’s” opinion was quite ingenious, actually. Oh, and I agree with the “Walking Dead” ban. Although one might say, the two are subjects are similar of a fashion.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. skat says:

    I would love to be able to edit that final line. Please remove the first “are” and move “of a” before the word “similar”. Many thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. skat says:

    Around about the time this was going on, my father picked some young Northern Irish fella up at the Toronto Airport and brought him home to stay overnight with us. I’ve no idea yet, who he was or why he was there. We were not related and I can’t even recall his name. I did get the distinct impression that he was a fugitive, however. My dad was not one to get involved with The Troubles back home, but I suppose, being the good Catholic that he was, he couldn’t deny giving some help to this young man, whoever he may have been.

    Liked by 1 person

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