Lighten up a bit
While most of the rest of us are preparing for a little innocent fun and celebration on St. Patrick’s Day this Sunday, Tom Walsh steps in to scold us on taking part in a holiday that perpetuates a racist characterization of the Irish (March 14). Should we hold the same view of Oktoberfest (Germans = drunks in short pants)? Bastille Day (French = winos in berets)? Heritage holidays, by definition, tend to be affairs that exaggerate stereotypes.
I, too, have Irish heritage to draw upon (we all love to unfurl the family banner, and since we all insist we have royals on it, early Ireland must have been populated entirely by kings and queens). In the case of St. Patrick’s Day, let’s be honest: the stereotypes are perpetuated by our own kind. It was not the Germans, Poles, Russians or Italians that turned it into the global extravaganza we know today, it was the Irish diaspora. And why did it become so popular? Probably for the very reason that forms the center of Walsh’s column—they were an entire generation of people forced into exile by a horrific, man-made famine, and they yearned to wax sentimental about their roots. And yes, that exercise in remembrance through songs and poetry probably involved a bit of booze as well. Don’t judge.
And yes, corned beef and cabbage is not Irish, but bacon and cabbage is. The Irish version of bacon bears a far closer resemblance to corned beef than to the Oscar Mayer variety, and for early Irish immigrants corned beef was cheaper anyway.
And, no, Ireland is most certainly not a nation of drunks, but neither should it be implied that they are a victimized people obsessed with grinding over resentments of the crimes committed against them. They are generous, gregarious, complex and hard-working, and although the bottom has completely fallen out of their economy, they are indomitable. Ireland still scored in the top 10 in the Legatum Institute’s 2012 Prosperity Index as one of the “happiest countries in the world.” So that’s who we are, and that’s cause for celebration. Lighten up and bring on the green beer. Slainte.
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