A St. Patrick’s Day Ramble

by gillis

Top of the morning to you! It has recently been brought to my attention that my kids and I have “the map of Ireland” across our faces, so there’s no use denying my ethnic heritage. Looking Irish doesn’t always make it easier for me to  understand some of the Irish-American traditions surrounding St. Patrick’s Day. Surely I’m not the only person who scratches their head at this annual pridefest of some of the ugliest stereotypes of the Irish? Are there other groups who parade the dirty laundry that caused them to be discriminated against and looked down upon in centuries past?

I’m talking about you, green-beer swilling, freckle-faced Declan O’Garitty McMartin there with your shamrock glasses halfway down your face, spittle gathering at the corners of your mouth while you cry, drunkenly, to the jukebox version of “Danny Boy” and try to hold yerself upright on the stool at your local. You’re not Irish. You’re an American. Oh sure, someone in the twisty branches of your family tree took an ugly boat ride over here and had the NINA laws thrown in their faces, but do you think you’re honoring their struggle when you vomit green all over the sidewalks of Southie or Brighton? I beg to differ. And eating something called a “Car Bomb Cupcake,” charmingly based on the drink of the same name, doesn’t make the IRA an adorable little group of folks working for the common good. Car bombs are real. Did you know that? And I think they may have hurt a few people too.

I know, I’m a St. Patrick’s Day buzz kill. Literally. I’m not favor of people getting blind drunk to “celebrate” anything, but especially not celebrating a rich, beautiful heritage that should instill you with pride. I feel a strong pull towards the Irish part of my ancestry. I love Celtic music and Irish writers and poets are among my favorites. I am struck by the strength of the Irish people through adversity – the beauty of their ability to persevere through famine and the degradation of occupation, their unwillingness to surrender their language and culture- it’s awe-inspiring. Theirs is a story worth knowing, worth telling, so if you want to honor your ancestors, learn about them. Teach your children about them. But stop getting drunk and giving them the credit for your lack of imagination. That’s all you.