Today we are all supposed to be Irish. Supposed to be. Just wearing Green, going to an Irish inspired watering hole and drinking Guinness or green coloured beer does not an Irish person make. But we try. People make up all kinds of genealogies in order to link some part of the family name to Ireland. But only for today. Tomorrow we are whatever the trend is for that moment. We are rarely what we are where we are. Young people in particular always want to be different. They grab on to trends like they were a lifeline to happiness. If they think they have any kind of foreign blood in them, they embrace that long gone culture as if it were their own. Ask anyone with perhaps (and I mean perhaps) a drop of Scottish blood in them living anywhere else in the world, or drops of Italian blood or Slavic or Greek or Australian and so on.
Not so with the English. No one wants to admit that. No pride in being one of the most hated groups in the world….with some good reason I suppose. The Irish hate us, the Scots and even the Welsh. It runs deep. I have a Native Canadian friend who tells me how much her people still hate the English….not the British, the English. She says she only tolerates me because I lived most of my life in Canada and agree with her assessment of how my people treated her people. The only time the English are proud to be so is when England is playing football (soccer) and who really wants to be associated with them, rugby or cricket. The rest of the time, the English pretend to be anonymous. The stuffy upper class probably hang on to being blatantly English, but they are a useless bunch and, again, who wants to be lumped in with that toffee-nosed lot?
But, back to the Irish. It is their day after all. The Irish get a bad rap wherever they go in the world, a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, bad-tempered bunch who would rather fight than anything else. The Irish will tell you they were treated so badly by the English (there we are again) that it’s no wonder they are feisty. It’s how they protect their image. Some just like to bully for the pure enjoyment of it. I once made a twitter comment about a situation in Ireland and was treated to an avalanche of abuse from Irish types….one named Irish Guy who actually lived in Hong Kong….because I dared speak the truth. Tore me to shreds verbally (they are experts) and utterly dismissed me as I was….well….English. I pointed out that I was mostly Canadian, but that just inflamed the situation. He had fun with that.
I have spent the grand total of one week in Ireland, about 10 years ago. County Clare, the western part of Eire. Nothing like the north, although I’ve not been. I base my opinion on what comes over the tele and what I read. But in County Clare English people were working in pubs and shops, Protestant and Catholic churches seemed to live side by side in harmony and everyone I met was very welcoming and friendly. I even got to play guitar with an Irish band in a pub in one of those quaint Irish villages. A tiny place heaving with locals. I was honoured. No rebel songs, just folky stuff with the Irish lilt. And free beer. Would that the world could all be like County Clare.
But it’s not and tonight, all over the world, the Irish and the wannabees are going to go mad and give the Irish a bad name. A few might behave, but that doesn’t seem to be part of the celebrations. All for a day supposedly honouring a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church, St. Patrick, the man whom legend says drove the snakes from Ireland. Poor things. Not very Christian if you ask me. Besides, it’s not true….most of what is said about him isn’t. But, we do know he was Scottish, not Irish, born to wealthy parents and taken captive by a band of Irish raiders back to Ireland. He escaped years later, returning to Ireland of his own volition to help turn the Irish rabble into good Christian souls. They’ve been drinking ever since. And, naturally, when you don’t actually live in the country of your heritage, you are more Irish than the Irish. Just take a look at Boston in America today….and I mean today, the 17th. More Irish than the Irish. Irish Pubs in every corner of the globe, even on Majorca off the coast of Spain will host even Spaniards who pretend to be Irish tonight.
Let’s not be fooled. The Irish still have it in for each other in Ireland. I grew up Protestant in Canada and the Reverend (not very) Ian Paisley from Northern Ireland used to come over to raise money among Irish Protestants for his less than Christian cause. The North is still the hotbed for dissension of one sort or another and Paisley was one of the main voices for years. Thankfully, last September he gave up the ghost, but apparently his son carries on….the sins of the father and all that. I’m not on the other side either. Don’t like taking sides. I like the Irish people who, once in a while come out in favour of good old-fashioned peace.
Now, please, don’t get me wrong. I love the Irish. The Commitments, Dara O Briain, Enya, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Pierce Brosnan, Richard Harris (the original Dumbledore) and Colm Meaney….what’s not to like? Humour and song, Celtic lore, I love it all. And, yes, I have been known to join in on St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, but mostly when I lived in Toronto. It’s just all this hype over a guy who isn’t even Irish….I mean do the Irish really need a day to celebrate getting drunk and disorderly? There must be parts of Dublin and Belfast and Boston where every day is St. Patrick’s Day. I’m sure if Irish Guy read this, he’d hop on the first plane over here to punch my lights out or send his London cronies to do the same no matter the day. Such is the way of irish hotheads.
If you’re wearing green today and planning on joining the throngs to drink green beer and eat Irish Stew, bless you. I say that as someone who actually has Irish descendants….yes, I really do. We’ll call the day something else though….Irish Madness or Up the Eire, just not St. Patrick’s Day. What we know of him, he would not be honoured to know how his namesake is celebrated. But in the spirit of good will, I leave you with the old Irish (methinks) proverb,
Here’s to a long life and a merry one.
A quick death and an easy one.
A cold pint and another one.