In my childhood I immersed myself
in Ireland’s boldest writers.
It becomes painfully clear and more prevalent than ever that the culture I was born and bred to carry with pride is actually an embarrassment. It remains the only nationality that allows itself to be a source of degradation through advertising, merchandising, and an annual million mockery march all in the name of profit. Yet, aside from the occasional poorly worded online petition, we as a “people” really don’t give a fuck. At least on these shores.
The history drilled into my mind from day one was what validated my identity and allowed me to feel connected to a larger extended family. In my childhood I immersed myself in Ireland’s boldest writers and most rebellious music, raised funds that fed causes, as well as bruised and split flesh diffusing the derogatory shadows cast upon myself for being Irish. Why was it only me that harbored raging resentment towards all things Ulster and cheered the rise of the Sinn Fein party’s legitimate recognition?
Because I didn’t realize the vast difference between us and them.
Own a bar and need a name? Slap an ”O’” in front of it, any name will suffice. Boom. Irish in America. Need to get piss drunk before 9am and can’t pick a proper date? Try March 17th, that’s the traditional way. Irish in America. Your great great great great great grandfather is from Ireland? Fucking A! You’re now the President of the Emerald Society and practically an Hibernian in these parts. Irish in America.
When all they’ve come to know is that their heritage comes down to rounding off the rough outcome of an equation, they’ve achieved “ancestry” status and nothing more. Drop the fucking hyphen, the embroidered fleece garments with dueling flags, and the inked shamrocks that morph into mossy paw prints over the years. They’re Americans. Everyday patriots who most likely cannot, with any accuracy, find West Virginia on the US map let alone County Mayo. Tell any of these lucky charmers that a Black and Tan is more than a confused beverage choice at the pub, you’ll be liable for an aneurysm.
There’s nothing worse in my eyes, nothing more disheartening than those who thrive on ignorance. If you claim the name, then know what it stands for, what went into that tricolor being hoisted and whose bones feed the soil upon which it graces. At the very least, the simplest understanding of there to here would either alleviate most of their annual burst of green glory or Storm front’s membership numbers would be much lower.
Racism spawned by “Irish” descendants without the knowledge of their own history that parallels or closely mirrors African Americans’ is ludicrous. To be the original bottom-of-the barrel bastards here and socially “evolve” into wearing $50 suit wearing, grandstanding right wingers denouncing their very roots, placing judgment upon those lacking official documents, proper employment status, skin tone, and kneeling in the wrong places. I guess illiteracy is a power to behold.
Gone now is my blind Irish pride, which long outlasted my accent. I fought the good fight only to witness the true reality of an entire population turn to dust on broken barstools, decrepit church pews, and wielding the vocabulary of elementary school dropouts. Every now and again I’ll get sentimental and wear one my Pogues shirts, leaving the baffled aloof in their plagiarized and worn-out Dropkick Murphys bullshit.
I have adorned myself in the art of the ancient Irish Celts and have spent the better part of two decades mastering it in my own hand. Those maddening and intricate details that aren’t noticed at first or even second glance, are all required to create the larger image. Much like our collective memory and Irish history. I still and will see my own connection, solid and true, to the shaky ancestral values I’ve taken from 42 years of being an Irishman. But as far as the rest go here in the red, black, and blue, I haven’t a fuck-all to say them & their kind.
My life, my past, my very being was once filled with a passion, a furious love of my heritage. However, the elusive sense of identity I’ve been tied to, heart and soul, actually exists within my wife and son. Yes, she’s 100% Irish, but that honestly has nothing to do with why. That’s the belonging I’ve always yearned for, the camaraderie and common upbringing that’s rarely understood by most anyone else. She’s honest, unassuming, and loves me unconditionally. I remain a bitter, jaded, and arrogant motherfucker, but a much more content one.
And March 17th for us? We took it back in the only way we could. That’s no longer St. Patrick’s Day. It’s our wedding anniversary.