Happy Saint Patrick's Day to everyone!!! I am an Irish-American, and my vision of what St. Patrick's Day is has evolved though the years. It is important for me to note that I am not a first or second generation Irish-American, and therefore some may question how Irish I really am. However, since I am overwhelmingly Irish on both sides of my family, I feel I have the right to speak out regarding this issue.
There does appear to be a large amount of people in Ireland or those Irish who have newly immigrated to America who become tired of people of Irish descent simply using the "Irish Brand." I find this irritation to be somewhat valid. I was not born in Ireland and I, nor any Irish Americans that I know during my day, faced discrimination because of our Irish heritage. However, many Irish who immigrated to America did face this. Often times, the Irish who immigrated here did so in order to send money back to starving and poor family members. This was done despite poor working conditions and a great degree of discrimination. These were not people who ran from their heritage. They and their children and their children's children have every right to be proud of their Irish heritage. However, many Irish-Americans fail to take pride in their heritage and can be outright disrespectful. This is why I feel native Irish can become irritated with us.
Today, there are two issues that I believe contribute to the frustration that many native Irish feel towards Irish-Americans. This deals with how Irish-Americans express views of politics in Ireland and how they celebrate Saint Patrick's Day. Many Irish-Americans still love to speak out about the political problems in Ireland. Without living there during the troubles, I have no right to criticize the peace that was reached or question whether things could have been done differently. I hear some Irish-Americans speak out about Martin McGuiness, calling him a traitor because of his relationship with Ian Paisley. Still, others express views regarding how an armed struggle should continue. Suffice it to say, I was not in Belfast or Derry during those times and did not grow up facing the tragedies of those days. All I know is that when I recently visited those cities, there was an overwhelming feeling on both sides that the Good Friday agreement has made life far better. Both sides also expressed anger with the remaining dissident groups. No Irish-American has a right to question the sacrifices that were and continue to be made for that peace to continue.
Second is the manner in which we celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Ireland celebrates this day with parades and little else. They do not understand the way it is celebrated here in America. America celebrates it in a much different and more degrading way, in my opinion. They will then relay stories about how there was a rumor in their family that they might have a great-great-great-grandparent from Ireland and therefore might be 1/32 Irish. While it is innocent enough to have a day where everyone wishes they were Irish, this is not done out of pride or a desire to discover a heritage. Here, people choose to wear green clothes and drink green beer until they can no longer stand. People with no Irish descent wear tee-shirts that read "Kiss Me I'm Irish" or worse "F@#$ Me I'm Irish." They will then drink "Irish car bombs," an insulting reference to the daily atrocities that were mentioned above and only occasionally occur today, until they are so intoxicated that they can no longer stand. You will often see these same individuals passed out on a corner or being put into a police car. This, in my humble opinion, perpetuates a stereotype of the Irish as dirty drunken people.
While, we cannot stop this, I refuse to participate. This will be my sixth straight Saint Patrick's Day in which I have abstained from this demeaning ritual. My plans for Saint Patrick's Day include a traditional Irish breakfast, an Irish dinner and maybe reading my niece (who is part Irish) old Irish tales from a book I plan to give to my children once I have some. If you truly believe that you are Irish and are proud of it, you are Irish all year long, not just on March 17 or when people bring up the IRA. If you wish to celebrate your heritage, learn about Irish history. Learn to play Gaelic Football, Hurling or Rugby. Read a book written by one of the many great Irish authors. Listen to Irish musicians, or even learn to play some traditional Irish songs. Learn the Gaelic language. Become involved in the Irish American community. These are all much more greater ways of showing your "Irish pride" than by perpetuating a sickening stereotype created about an intelligent, hard-working, and kind people.