My Beautiful Wickedness


Irish Passover
March 17, 2008, 7:34 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, y’all. I know that you know that most Irish don’t celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day like Americans do.  In Ireland, the Protestants don’t celebrate it at all, the devout Catholics go to Mass, the signifying color is deep blue and papal gold…but here in the States, we hold parades and go on drinking binges and generally attempt to recreate every Irish stereotype held by WASPs in the 19th century — drunken, lewd, loud, and well-organized by mob bosses.  

The professional Irishmen (hey, I’m in Albany, so I know whereof I speak) who sit around at pubs with their sweaters and tweed flatcaps talking about the Troubles take it to a whole ‘nother level. It becomes an annual recitation of all the ways that the Irish have been screwed, historically speaking. Never you mind that Ireland at the moment is both (fairly) peaceful and prosperous, with the Republic having the opportunity now to pass along the discriminatory economic screwing to the in-migrating Eastern Europeans who are coming to the island looking for work and Northern Ireland’s problems stemming more from the Unionist mobs fighting each other for control of the lucrative drug trade (have to finance those arms deals somehow, don’t they?). Nope, they are all stuck in the 1840s, in the bottom of some stinking ship vomiting forth our dreams and left empty on shore. We get to hear about the home rule crisis as though it is ripped from today’s headlines. We hear the ping of bullets on the facade of the Post Office and suddenly, it’s Easter 1916 with the obligatory chorus of “Rising of the Moon.” And on and on. Every misery, every hardship trotted out to be dwelled upon, old rages renewed, chanted for hours like the Easter litany of saints.

We prepare food that no one likes to commemorate the crap we had to eat to survive. Cabbage stew. Colcannon. Scant servings of boiled potato. Greasy stringy gristly corn beef. In some houses, the meal starts with a single blade of grass to commemorate the Hunger. In hardcore Irish households, this can be the most depressing day of the year. No wonder everyone drinks.

What could we be if we didn’t let our sufferings define us? Look at the things that Americans seize upon as generational touchstones. The Alamo. (Ass-kicking.) Little Big Horn. (Ass-kicking.) The Maine. (Ass-kicking.) Pearl Harbor. (Ass-kicking.) 9/11 (Ass-kicking.) It’s perverse. Tell me, do we get that from the Irish?

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3 Comments so far
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I’ve noticed, too, that you can pretty much tell when a professional Irishman or his family came over to America by which bone he’s still gnawing on.

As for our lingering on tragedy, I think it’s because we really still believe (or a lot of us anyway) that it is God’s will that we are here and God’s will that we do exactly what we do exactly how we do it–that we, as a country, are a manifestation of how God wants it. And we can’t reconcile that belief with the bad things (which are, sadly, rather ordinary in terms of the evil we do to each other on this planet) that happen to us.

Comment by Aunt B.

I was watching the HBO adaptation of “John Adams” on Sunday when I had a thought connected to what you are pondering in the last paragraph. The miniseries began with Adam’s defense of the soldiers indicted for the Boston Massacre. As the “Sons of Liberty” proudly blamed the British for the incident they themselves instigated I was struck by the level of hypocrisy at work in the founding of this nation.

Today I was showing “Good Night and Good Luck” to a recent American history class I was covering for another instructor. The film uses a lot of actual footage of McCarthy. At one point it showed him giving one of his frequent speeches where he assumed the role of “victim” to the attacks of the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy arrayed against him (very similar to the pose taken by Neo-cons today – poor rich white guys!!!).

White Americans love being victims. Poor us – the Indians, British, Indians again, Irish, Germans, Mexicans, always more Indians, Italians, Poles, Spaniards, Germans, Japanese and Germans, assorted Commies, evil rich foreigners, Asian immigrants, and back to the Mexicans again – are invading “our” country and undermining our way of life. Obviously they’re dangerous, just look at what they did at Bunker Hill/The Alamo/The Little Big Horn/Havana/Pearl Harbor/ etc…

Comment by Gerald

Ah, a habit of the colonial mind…yeah, you’re onto something here.

Comment by bridgett




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