|Remembering the radiant Mira Dabit|
Facebook often throws up some strange societal phenomena that just were not situations a few years ago. Most of these revolve around a lot of people finding something out all at once. Things like announcing the end of a relationship can be incredibly awkward, and with birthdays your page becomes bombarded with well-wishes and tributes, which is of course a whole lot more pleasant. And so it was when I looked at the Facebook page of my friend Mira Dabit, whose birthday was Wednesday. It was absolutely festooned with messages.
That simple fact, people wishing Mira well on Facebook, shows another of its' peculiarities: Mira died last Christmas. She would have been 28 this year.
The presence of that page serves to both deflect and heighten that awful reality. Several months later and I've not really accepted that she's gone. Not even remotely. Every so often it'll cross my mind and it'll feel like recalling a nightmare, not something that actually happened. The fact her page is, even now, even several months later, constantly, consistently buzzing with interaction exemplifies how absurd the notion of her being gone is. Except, interaction isn't the right word. All the traffic is one way. You see the sort of things people are writing, even now, daily, and you realise it's not a Facebook wall anymore. It's a very modern shrine. The fact Facebook informs me of her birthday is an unwittingly cruel administrative anomaly.
I hadn't seen her in quite a while, and not having seen her in so long made it all the more unbelievable. She was in Washington DC, heavily involved in the Occupy movement there. Part of me still imagines she's still there, and that's the trouble.
DC was her final adventure, but she lived in many places. Conquered, really. She was from Ramallah, in Palestine. She was fiercely proud of that. She wasn't just a political activist but a historian and traditional storyteller. She loved her country in a way that was deeper and more multi-dimensional than anyone I've ever known. All too often patriotism is an ostentatious show of muscle. Hers was that of a passionate soul.
Outside of the Palestine question, (although not much was, for her) she held political views that I can only really call comically strident. She was the revolutionary's revolutionary. She once quoted Stalin at a workshop while on one of her legendary anti-capitalist tirades. In front of dozens of people. But disagreeing with Mira was never an impediment to getting on famously with her. She once teased me about becoming Taoiseach, and when I did she said she'd picket my office every day.
She also loved Derry. She really connected it with its upstart attitude, its culture, its people, and she called it her second home. Derry loved her too. When word spread of her passing there was a massive commemoration service, and people spoke at length about what she meant to them. And while the expressions were different, the sentiment was the same: everybody loved this effervescent,earnest, intense, fearless hell-raising Palestinian girl who felt like she'd be hanging round the Bogside all her life.
And so it continues, on her Facebook page and beyond, both as I speak and by the time you read this. In fact, in nine months, the tributes haven't stopped. I doubt they ever will.