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Posted: 16-Mar-2006, 08:27 AM
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New York Times

Sorry, I must rain on your St. Patrick's Day parade
by Dominic Gates

Today on St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll avoid conversation with strangers. I’ll try hard to keep my Irish eyes smiling by gritting my teeth and nodding at comments on my “lovely” accent.

I’ll give my usual brusque affirmation in reply to the daily telephone question, “Are you from Ireland?”

Yes, I am from Ireland, but I’ll have to bite my tongue to stop myself from berating some naïve American with how I hate your damned ignorant, fake and racist St. Patrick’s Day.

A secretary once asked me, “Could you hang around the office all day and just talk?”

Usually I’m content with this easy power to please. It is always women who comment on the accent, so it’s a light-hearted boost to my male ego.

But I’ll not be playing the game on St. Patrick’s Day, darlin’. I refuse to be boyish, roguish and charmin’. Ah shure, you know where you can stuff your paddy whackery.

Does that seem a little over the top? Let me calm down, and try to explain why your lovable holiday is so appalling.

First realized that your charming images of Ireland, replete with Aran sweaters and tweeds, are 50 or 60 years out of date, based on Hollywood romanticizations like John Ford’s “The Quiet Man”.

That’s the 1952 movie where Irish American John Wayne returns to live in his ancestral village, woos the fiery redhead Maureen O’Hara, wins her over and proves his mettle to the menfolk by beating her stingy brother, McLaglen, in a brawl that is such fun every man in the village joins in. Both the argumentative courtship and the brawl are good naturedly comic, of course, just like the Irish.

O’Hara falls in love with Wayne, and McLaglen buys him a drink after their day-long fight. Shure, and how could you not love the passion of the Irish?

Let’s stay with images a while. Part of the pervasive iconography of American St. Patrick’s Day is a variation on the University of Notre Dame’s mascot – the “Fightin’ Irish” figure.

You’ll see it everywhere on the 17th of March, from Hallmark stores to T-shirts to street banners: a diminutive man with buckles on his shiny shoes and another on his billycock hat, his snub nose, heavy brow, and mustacheless beard accentuating a simian quality to his features: he has a pugnacious scowl on his face, his fists are clenched.

That image goes further back than Hollywood; its source is English anti-Irish bigotry from the 19th century.

The English Victorian satirical magazine “Punch” specialized in savage “humorous” cartoons that created an infamous Irish stereotype, on documented in the 1870s by Perry Curtis in “Apes & Angels: The Irishman in Victorian Caricature”, and more recently by the eminent Irish historian Roy Foster in “Paddy and Mr. Punch”.

Punch derided the Irish as stupid, feckless, drunken and lazy; the apelike cartoon image portrayed the Irishman as subhuman.

It is almost incredible that this racist image could survive, but one only has to look at a few of those Victorian cartoons to recognize that the “Fightin’ Irish” figure is nothing but a shallow Disneyland version of Punch’s subhuman.

You’ll have to excuse my killjoy failure to be charmed by the caricature. It may have lost its meaning to you, but I know where it came from.

Try promoting African Americans as thick, ugly, violent alcoholics, quick to anger, not very bright, but good for a song or a story, great entertainers in their place – try that, and let’s see how charming they find it.

How can it be that in today’s politically correct America this racism is not merely tolerated, but celebrated as good clean fun? The unfortunate truth is that many Irish Americans are as ignorant as anyone else about the realities of Ireland.

Though my blood boils at the perverse holiday stereotypes, Irish Americans join in with gusto. St. Patrick’s Day is their special day. What else can they do? How about trying to learn about the real Ireland? Find out why the shamrock is a national Irish symbol, and the four-leaf clover is not.

Discover that, happily, no one in Ireland wears bowler hats, except the Protestant Orangemen of Northern Ireland celebrating the Twelfth of July.

For a flavor of modern Dublin, try reading Roddy Doyle. Rent the movie version of his book, “The Commitments”. Notice the absence of Aran sweaters and tweed jackets.

Educate yourself about politics, too. There is a complicated political peace process going on in Belfast; try to discard the old knee-jerk, anti-Brit reactions and make sense of it, including the fears of unionists.

Listen to Van Morrison playing with the Chieftains, and note that he is a Belfast Protestant.

Find out about the enormous Scotch-Irish contribution to the making of America, and include that in your picture of Irishness.

Go visit Ireland, Belfast as well as Dublin; avoid stage-Irish tourist traps like Killarney.

Read Swift, Shaw, Wilde and Yeats. Read Seamus Heaney and John McGahern. Read Joyce.

Or ignore my railing. Step out on St. Patrick’s night, wearing something green, and enjoy your ignorance. Get drunk and hit somebody; but kiss then afterwards, sing a sentimental song and buy another round of green drinks.

Keep the stereotype alive. But realize it has damn little to do with Ireland.

Sorry to open your eyes; but shure, raining on the parade is a St. Patrick’s Day tradition, too.
Dominic Gates is a Seattle writer who emigrated from County Tyrone in Norther Ireland. Copyright The New York Times.


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Posted: 16-Mar-2006, 09:02 AM
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*standing ovation*

damn that was good to read! When was that published barddas? I always thought green beer was nasty, and I never wear the green on St. Pat's...I leave that for the wannabe's and the Hallmark celebrators.

Senara-ism : Life is like a theatrical production only you get to be actor, director, and audience all at once. So break a leg, sit back and enjoy the show!

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Posted: 16-Mar-2006, 10:27 AM
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I'm posting this in the Domain forum...

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Posted: 16-Mar-2006, 10:33 AM
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so quizel me this....

how is it celebrated in ireland seeing as it is a national holiday?

i do not play st paddy's day gigs anymore... to many drunks. note.gif



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Posted: 16-Mar-2006, 11:28 AM
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I take the man's point with a great deal of agreement, but not his surly mood.

Let me offer Larry Kirwan's (of Black '47) St. Patrick's Day greeting, which came to my yahoo mailbox this morning, and which makes much the same point without taking off an unwarranted layer of skin. (I might also mention in fairness that I have a young friend in Tyrone who has a heart the size of all outdoors and I love him dearly, but he's every bit as abrasive as this Dominic Gates fellow, if not more so, having lived through his family's share of cruel luck in the Troubles. So maybe that's the Tyrone style.)

St. Patrick's Day Message

On one day a year, they congregated outside St. Patrick's Cathedral off Prince Street in New York City and marched in celebration. To some of these immigrant Irish and their American born children it was a religious occasion, but to most the gathering was an affirmation of their right, not only to survive but, to thrive in their adopted country. That's what I sense on St. Patrick's Day - an echo from a time when the Irish were despised outsiders. And that's why I go along with the raucous energy, the excitement and even the green beer, the plastic shamrocks and the ubiquitous leprechaun.

I didn't always feel that way. When I arrived from Ireland, these manifestations of Irish-America were at best embarrassing. Back home, our own celebrations were rigid and religious; we did sport actual sprigs of shamrock but there was no beer, green or otherwise. The Parade up Fifth Avenue and the ensuing bacchanal seemed downright pagan by comparison.

I had other immigrant battles of my own ahead. The band, Black 47, was formed to create music that would reflect the complexity of immigrant and contemporary Irish-American life and to banish When Irish Eyes Are Smiling off to a well earned rest in the depths of Galway Bay. This idea met with not a little resistance in the north Bronx and the south sides of Boston and Chicago; but when irate patrons would yell out in the middle of a reggae/reel "why can't yez sing somethin' Irish?" I would return the compliment with, "I'm from Ireland, I wrote it! That makes it Irish!"

With time and familiarity, Irish-America came to accept and even treasure Black 47, probably more for our insistence that each generation bears responsibility for solving the political problems in the North of Ireland, than for recasting Danny Boy as a formidable gay construction worker. I, in turn, learned to appreciate the traditions of the community I had joined along with the reasons for the ritualized celebration of our patron saint. And now on St. Patrick's Day, no matter what stage I'm on, mixed in with the swirl of guitars, horns, pipes and drums, I hear an old, but jarring, memory of a people rejoicing as they rose up from their knees.

All our battles, for the most part, have been won; indeed, one has to search an encyclopedia for mention of the Know-Nothing Party or various 19th Century nativist politicians and gangs. Anti-Irish sentiment, not to mention Anti-Catholicism is a thing of the past. Might it not be time then that our New York St. Patrick's Day Parade broaden its parameters to celebrate all Irishness no matter what religion (or lack thereof), sexuality or political conviction. It's a broad step, I know. But now with the makings of a just peace finally taking seed in the North of Ireland, might we not some day witness Dr. Paisley, Mr. Adams and various members of the Irish Gay community walk arm in arm up Fifth Avenue. Impossible? Perhaps, but I, for one, would have wagered heavily 15 years ago that the Sinn Fein party would never sit in a Northern Irish Parliament. Times change and with them tactics and, even, treasured principles.

Whatever about Parade pipe dreams, we still must honor the memory of those who paved the way for us. Part of that responsibility is that Irish-Americans should never forget the new immigrants from other lands, legal and otherwise. Many, like our forebears, are fleeing tyranny, economic and politcal, and are striving to feed and educate their families. It would be the ultimate irony if an Irish-American were to look down upon the least of them; for, in my mind anyway, there is no place in the Irish soul for racism, sectarianism, homophobia or even dumb old Archie Bunker type xenophobia.

I once heard Pete Hamill, the writer, ask: "What does the Pakistani taxi driver say to his children when he gets home after 12 hours behind the wheel?" I can't say for certain but I'll bet he echoes many of the sentiments of those Irish who gathered outside St. Patrick's Cathedral so many immigrant tears and years ago.

Have a great day,

Larry Kirwan
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Posted: 17-Mar-2006, 12:14 AM
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Sound like to me that Mr. Dominic Gates needs to stay home on March 17th if all this wearing of the green offends him!!!! Not everyone drinks green beer and gets all boozed up!

Tomorrow I will wear my green St. Patty's day shirt proudly ...I'm glad to know I have Irish blood in me and these blue Irish eyes will be smiling. biggrin.gif

Top of the mornin to ya'

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Posted: 17-Mar-2006, 09:23 AM
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QUOTE (maggiemahone1 @ 17-Mar-2006, 01:14 AM)

Top of the mornin to ya'

And the rest of the day to you, acushla. smile.gif
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Posted: 11-Aug-2006, 09:03 PM
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Patrick's Day

'Tis Saint Patrick's Day
Across the sea
In the land Amerikay
But in Ireland,
March 17th
Is simply Patrick's Day

Tourists come in hoards
To Dublin City
Foreigners from afar
To tip their mugs of Guiness
These strangers
In our bars

Why do they come?
What is the draw?
Why flock to Erin's shore?
Ah, t'was once trouble
To be Irish
But nay,
My friends, no more!

For they all want to be Irish
If only for this day in spring!
They want to believe the blarney
In leprechauns and faerie rings

They want to dance a jig or two
Shed tears to "Danny Boy"
They all want to be Irish - and why not?
For to be Irish is a joy

How ironic such a turn around
So try not to take offense
After hundreds of years of bigotry
'Tis almost a compliment

So pin a shamrock on your shirt
Raise your glass with a "Slainte" loudly
But no matter how you choose to do it
Choose to wear your Irish proudly...

For Dominic: A Belated Patrick's Day Post

Many things you say are true... wink.gif

But much is in the spirit of celebration
And naught is done in malice
We Irish American's worship Ireland
And we toast it with reverent chalice... beer_mug.gif

Be tolerant of us Irish not privleged
On Ireland's soil to be born
Our ancestors had no choice, you see...
Do you know our hearts still mourn?

We mean naught by our foolish ways
We mean no degradation
But it is how our Irish American-ness
Was handed down, generation by generation

As for we women lovin' a man
On whose tongue the Irish dwells
We beg a pardon and mean no harm
So, love, mind you forgive us that as well...

Almost half way to Patrick's Day 2007!
March in the famous Annual Girardville St. Patrick's Day Parade
The Saturday After Patrick's Day 2007
Hosted by the AOH Black Jack Kehoe, Division 1
Girardville, Pa., USA
County Schuylkill...almost Ireland

Ni'i aon tintea'n mar do thintea'n fe'in
There is no fireplace like your own fireplace

O come back to Ireland! Come back with me!
Come back to the green rollin' hills and the sea
Come back to the music! Come back to the dance!
O come back to Ireland! Come back with me!
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Posted: 24-Jan-2007, 10:45 AM
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QUOTE (Senara @ 16-Mar-2006, 10:02 AM)
... and I never wear the green on St. Pat's...I leave that for the wannabe's and the Hallmark celebrators.

I am with Senara on this. I "wear" my Irishness daily, on my sleeve. By the way, I hate the "Kiss me, I'm Irish" t-shirts, buttons, whatever. I've often thought to get a t-shirt that says instead "F*** You. I'm Irish"
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Posted: 24-Jan-2007, 10:02 PM
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QUOTE (j Padraig moore @ 24-Jan-2007, 11:45 AM)
"F*** You. I'm Irish"

laugh.gif laugh.gif

I seem to remember hearing that frequently when I was in the pubs in Ireland. Most of the locals aren't real pleased with some of the Europeans taking their jobs and all the language barriers that have developed.

They wanted the Euro as their monetary system and now it's backfiring on them.
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