President Obama made the following remarks at a town hall meeting to a group of youth in Belfast, Northern Ireland:
Because issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity — symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others — these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it. If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation…
…And I know, because America, we, too, have had to work hard over the decades, slowly, gradually, sometimes painfully, in fits and starts, to keep perfecting our union. A hundred and fifty years ago, we were torn open by a terrible conflict. Our Civil War was far shorter than The Troubles, but it killed hundreds of thousands of our people. And, of course, the legacy of slavery endured for generations.
The president might have added in describing the Irish students, “It’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Religion — and his apparent antipathy to it — seems to be Obama’s go-to scapegoat when he’s at a loss to explain a complex situation that requires in-depth analysis. He uses it stateside to dismiss political opponents who disagree with his agenda and now we hear it again as Obama appears to blame Northern Ireland’s centuries-old conflict on Catholics and Protestants not attending school together. Well done, Mr. President! Let’s hope you can get Syria untangled that easily!
Obama placed his remarks in the context of the American Civil War, which is odd considering how zealously activists have derided school choice, blaming it for racial and religious divisions in society, and considering the ugly history of anti-school choice bigotry after the Civil War.