Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day (Sort Of)!

Happy St. Patrick's Day (Sort Of)!
by Jake Kilroy

When I was younger, I, like most Americans with Irish heritage, swore allegiance to the Emerald Isle without ever doing the research. Saint Patrick's Day has become a reminder that I still haven't. I've done the bare minimum of understanding a culture that more or less made me who I am. There's beautiful and glorious Italian, German, Polish, and Luthanian blood in me as well, but I tend to most often identify with the pale-as-a-ghost storytellers who consume grief and celebrate everything. I read Dubliners, but not How the Irish Saved Civilization. I read Angela's Ashes, but not Emigrants and Exiles.

The Irish, like any culture ever, are complex. But we do a weird thing with stereotypes in this country when we land on celebration terms, where we boil a heritage down to a few marketable items. It can't be avoided. In a time of dwindling attention spans (of which I take part and promote), there's no way in hell anyone can expect an in-depth discussion of the Easter Rising. At large, it's sort of screwball what comes to represent an entire people with eons of history. The Irish have a billion playwrights and artists, and they invented things like the boycott and the tattoo machine, but last night, Midnight had an Irish-themed hashtag, and half the jokes were about the Scottish.

I don't really have a takeaway with all this, and it's certainly not relegated to this particular culture or holiday. It just struck me funny today, as I saw online photo collections of blackout bros in green throwing down the shaka brah (bless their hearts) and heard radio ads that bordered on lazy with leprechaun impressions hyping a sale that would "make ol' Patty weep" or something even stranger. I just thought, once again, what the hell is today even supposed to be?

Anyway, I'll close on what remains my favorite joke about the Irish (from 30 Rock): "The Chinese built the railroads, the Irish built and then filled the jails." Happy Saint Patrick's Day, all!

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