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Celtic Radio Community > Ireland > St Patricks Day - Alterantive Perspective


Posted by: Welsh Guy 18-Mar-2004, 02:31 PM
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 na´ve 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First realized that your charming images of Ireland, replete with Aran sweaters and tweeds, are 50 or 60 years out of date, based on Hollywood romanticizations like John Ford’s “The Quiet Man”.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.

Posted by: maggiemahone1 19-Mar-2004, 07:22 PM
Sounds like to me that Dominic Gates is a real party pooper! thumbdown.gif thumbdown.gif thumbdown.gif

Just my own personal opinion, not to offend anyone!

maggiemahone1

Posted by: Siobhan Blues 20-Mar-2004, 02:53 PM
QUOTE (Welsh Guy @ Mar 18 2004, 03:31 PM)
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.... Yes, I am from Ireland, but I?ll have to bite my tongue to stop myself from berating some na´ve American with how I hate your damned ignorant, fake and racist St. Patrick?s Day.
But I?ll not be playing the game on St. Patrick?s Day, darlin?. I refuse to be boyish, roguish and charmin?... 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?. ...

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

Okay, now THAT is an attitude that I feel much more kinship to, that reflects how I feel! Most of my fellow statesiders do the green beer/four-leaf clover/leprechaun type of celebrations... Thank you so much for sharing this article! It is right to the point, and now I understand where the characature of Irishness comes from... I had no idea, but I know from experience that the image of the Irish we see here is false to the core.

I too feel that the holiday here is racist, fake, and very ignorant. The Ireland I saw - and adore - is indeed 'The Commitments', its also 'The Matchmaker' with Jeanne Garafolo or 'Waking Ned Devine' or 'Angela's Ashes' or even Gabriel Byrne's 'Into the West' which he produced and acted in and is a wonderful story of two boys who meet a horse that leads them on a great adventure that eventually leads to a healing of their family... a perfect blend of myth and reality.
There is another movie coming out this year, I believe the title is 'The Boys from County Clare' that looks promising, as far as giving us a realistic look at Ireland. One of the lovely Corr sisters is to star in it, I don't remember which one however.

During my time in Ireland I was very curious as to how the stateside image compared with fact, and I realized very soon that they are not the same creature. I learned what the legend of the leprechaun really is... that its a shamrock, not the 4-leaf clover, that is a symbol... that the pub is a place of camaraderie, of great food not just too much alcohol... that the family is very important, one's Irishness is a source of great pride, and that the suffering in Ireland was very real & led to my own ancestors departure but suffering still goes on in the conflict between north and south.

I learned that they do not often have Yanks come to their country with the respect and admiration and genuine curiosity I brought with me, and I tell you that once they saw where I 'was coming from', there was no question left unanswered - no inquiry dismissed as trivial - they actually showed me more and told me more than I even knew to ask, because they saw I sincerely wanted to see the real Ireland. They welcomed me, and I will always be grateful.

The real Ireland is wonderful beyond compare...




Posted by: ChuckDenton 04-Apr-2004, 01:22 AM
All too often, we are required to give up our levity and fun. All too often, we are demanded to remember that we have grown up and should act our age. St. Patrick's day CAN be irreverent. It can also be a day that folks forget what it came from...look at Christmas day, Easter, look at trade Unions, nothing today is as it was intended.

It can also be a day of fun with your WHOLE family...brothers and sisters, moms and Dads. Enjoy it while you can!!!

For the love of God, just have a nice fun time. Remember what it was all about in the beginning.

Posted by: 3Ravens 04-Apr-2004, 01:26 AM
Another more realistic movie is The Button War.

Posted by: barddas 08-Apr-2004, 08:24 AM
I remember this article.
It's great, and the truth!

Cheers,
Jason

Posted by: Raven 15-Apr-2004, 09:14 AM
I'm sure it is the truth (this article) but I think the point is a bit amiss, as what is done in ignorance here stateside is done in tribute to the Irish regardless of what the original intent of the images were.

I am very proud of my Irish heritage and it seems to me rather than spur bigotry or prejudice the romanticising of who the Irish are and what Ireland is seems to make Americans want to be Irish or search their family trees to find Irish heritage.

Of course another part of the American end of this is that most Americans want a Disney Land version of culture. It must all be Americanized in some way for people here to want to experience it.

I think putting british prejudice on Americans is not fair to either. In their ignorance most Americans do not consider the issues of Orange and Green, I think getting angry and gritting your teeth about someone's ignorance in trying to do homage or honor is petty and does nothing to educate.

I think Dominics attitude comes off arrogant,condescending,hateful and ignorant at the same time. Saying that St Patty's Day (which I have no real emotional attachment to - like Chuck said nothing is as it was intended) is ignorant, fake and racist can not be accurate. If as Americans we celebrate St Patty's day in ignorance then we can not be indulging in Racism.

rac?ism

Pronunciation: (rA'siz-um), [key]
?n.
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races

It seems that the R word is often thrown in just to get a reaction and he may mean it different than the dictionary definition or than most Americans think of it in which case he is guilty of the same that he is accusing others of. It is by no means accurate or appropriate in the context used.

I think that sometimes we get so caught up in the original meaning of things that we loose sight of the current meaning or the spirit in which something is said or done. It is unfortunate that some look so negatively on something that seems to me to be done as an honor or tribute.


Peace

Mikel

Posted by: Breandain 17-Apr-2004, 08:33 PM
Interesting that Dominic is using an American citys paper to spout off his opinions on racism against the American way of life.

I for one don't care if Americans think of the Irish as drinkers or fighters or what have you.

I believe a lot of money comes from those same Americans who he is quick to label as racists. Tourist dollars, imports, etc...

If he has a problem with someone who asks him to speak just to hear his accent, then he has much bigger problems. Put on a fake American accent!

My advice to Dominic is to just suck it up, get over yourself and enjoy the moment each St Paddy's Day.

But of course since trying to stir things up is what comes off as good journalism these days, then I suppose Dominic has done his job well then.

Posted by: Roisin-Teagan 17-Apr-2004, 11:35 PM
Americans love holidays, so they will find an excuse to have fun and celebrate especially when beer is involved! All this non-sense about racism and sterotyping the Irish is crazy. Wasn't St. Patrick's Day in America started by the Irish-Americans? This past St. Paddy's Day in Ireland they celebrated a whole week with fireworks, parades, and getting drunk with parties. Now do you actually think St. Patrick would aprove of all this fuss if he were alive. But who cares it's an excuse to celebrate their Irishness in the fashion of their choosing. Just as it is our Irish American right to celebrate our Irishness in the fashion we choose.

I think anyone who is really Irish (by blood) does not have illusions of shamrocks being four leaf clovers, and every Irishman having smiling eyes, while he lifts his glass of ale to a melancoley song while wearing a tweed jacket and an Aran sweater. Come on! Give me a break. I grew up knowing that I am Irish and never did I get caught up in the fable. St. Patrick's Day has evolved into a commercial nightmare with corny gimmicks, but some real Irish in America cherish and honor the memory of who St. Patrick was and what he actually did for Ireland.

As for the real Ireland, I took the time to learn about and read for myself. So if you have illusions, go read the biography of Mick Collins, the History of the Easter Uprising, and McCourt's autobiography entitled "Angle's Ashes" or Roddy Doyle's "A Star Called Henry." Just as some of you across the pond might have illusions that most Americans are self-absorbed, money hungry, vain, and arrogant Hollywood types then you need to go and read Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Steinbeck, Hemmingway, and Jack London to get a sense of where we came from. To understand who we are now read some books by Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Thomas Wolfe, William Faulkner, and Truman Capote. Most Americans are hard working, hard loving and generous people just as the Irish in Ireland are. Ignorance is a two way street you know.

Posted by: lolly 22-Apr-2004, 06:38 AM
that acticle reminds me of a master card commercial that they ran over here on st paddy day. i dont remember it exactly but it goes something like this, a typical master card commercial with a bit of a jab at the end:

gaint leprican hats, 50 euro
traditional irish village (shows a paerson holding up a lil model village), 15 euro
knowing what it really means to be Irish, priceless

let me tell you, that commercia had the study abroad students talking. but anyway, we went on to the st paddy's day parade on o'connell st right down the center of limerick and we had a great time. some bought hats, some bought flags, and we all bought drink. this guy makes it look like the irish dont celebrate st paddy's day as much as they do over here but they do. the st paddy's day parade in dublin was as big as any parade that is held in nyc. the holiday is just celebrated in a different way. we all had a great time.

hope all is well,
lauren

p.s. it actually did rain on our parade that day so we just went to the pub and had a pint.

Posted by: lolly 22-Apr-2004, 06:40 AM
oh yeh i forgot to add, i like my lil irish guy, i think he is cute.

Posted by: Roisin-Teagan 22-Apr-2004, 07:27 AM
QUOTE (lolly @ Apr 22 2004, 06:40 AM)
oh yeh i forgot to add, i like my lil irish guy, i think he is cute.

What about his acent? Don't you just love his acent? laugh.gif tongue.gif

Posted by: lolly 22-Apr-2004, 11:10 AM
i was talking about the lil Irish guy on the computer, the little pic w/my name. LOL but yeh i like the accent. it is gonna be so weird goin back to the states and not hearing it. im gettin so used to the accent here the when i get home ill have to relearn how to understand the us accent! LOL

see ya,
lauren

Posted by: Roisin-Teagan 22-Apr-2004, 07:56 PM
Oh, my bad! laugh.gif

Posted by: lolly 23-Apr-2004, 04:24 AM
no problem cool.gif

off to class!,
lauren

Posted by: barddas 05-Apr-2005, 02:02 PM
It's been over a year..... Thought some might want to see this.

Posted by: WizardofOwls 06-Apr-2005, 03:54 AM
Hey Jason! Good to see ya back, buddy! Personally, I never pictured that little green guy as representing the Irish. I thought he was a leprechaun! Have I missed something somewhere? sad.gif

Posted by: j Padraig moore 06-Apr-2005, 11:08 AM
An interesting article. A little too full of venom maybe, but nevertheless, a good article.

For myself, I do not wear green on St. Patricks Day. I typically do not go out drinking that day either. I know from whence the meaning of the shamrock comes from. I too get a littled annoyed with the Irish stereotypes affixed to St Patricks Day: go out and get wasted on green beer.

Not for me, thank you.

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