They say people get crushes on other people who are unattainable so that the emotions of infatuation can be enjoyed without the threat of actual intimacy with the object of one’s affections. I used to get crushes on older guys in school (I went to a school that had 12 grades, so we’re talking Seniors, not fifth graders) but my parents ended up knowing the boys’ parents and there were mortifying dinners with the objects of my affections. Is it any wonder I began to turn to those who were long dead?
Well, I also claim that my historic crushes are valid because a boy who is a senior in high school may be able to drive a car, a celebrity may be able to get a good table at a hip restaurant. But these men I love in my heart of hearts? They unite nations, create an economy and tower above everyone else as they stand on the twin boosts of myth and power. Of course we’ve all discussed Abraham Lincoln at length–ha!–and my love for him is no secret.
I’ve mentioned before that another one of my less-talked-about-but-still-fervant historic heroes is Eamon De Valera.Others call him “Dev”, but he was known to dislike this appelation. Sometimes I call him “Val” because it’s less of a tongue twister than the whole thing.
Oh, right. Who is he? Well, the short version is that he’s the son of an Irish mother, his father is a mystery. His mother came to America to have him, and then sent him right back to Ireland with her brother. He became an Irish freedom fighter; his American birth saved him. When others were executed the British government held the bullet for De Valera because they didn’t want to anger the United States by killing one of its citizens. (They were trying to get the U.S. into WWI, I believe.) De Valera lived and went on to become the father of modern Ireland. He’s essentially a mix of Paul Revere, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. (Like Jefferson in France, De Valera turned the fortunes of Ireland with a trip to America whereby the revolution and nascent state were funded.)
So where am I going with this? Well, last week I bought a book called Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show by Frank Delaney.
Have you ever read a book that leaves a bruise on your soul? This was that book for me. It’s so beautifully written that I found myself highlighting thoughts and passages where the words fit together more rightly than words ever have done anywhere else. The story is allegorical, using one man’s struggles with his family to mirror the nascent Irish state. So while the wording is beautiful and the book feels more Irish than any other thing it also bit into my mind with the hot vinegar of venial people. I kept trying to set it aside but there were stirring passages about de Valera scattered throughout, with promises of more to come. So I soldiered on–pun intended–through to the end.
I’m still carrying around all those miserable people and their horrible ventriloquist’s dummy. I wish they would leave my head, but they won’t. At least I also have great images of de Valera in there as well, the Long Fella saving the country yet again.