Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Irish Thoughts

So today is St. Patrick's day. I'm a large percentage of Irish by blood and temperment. I've been meaning to write this post for days, actually.

I have this neighbor who decorates the crap out of his/her yard for every holiday. This means hanging stuff from trees, putting up those plywood cutouts, etc. It's way overdone, like something in the Griswald's Christmas Vacation.

For St. Patrick's day, they don't go as wild as for other holidays (heck, it's just one day!) but they do decorate. Right now, there are about ten red-headed, green wearing Irish Leprechan type little effigies hanging from trees in their yard. They wiggle and twist in the wind as you're sitting at the light.

Somehow, the act that seems innocuous when it's little ghost figures at Halloween does not seem so innocent when it looks like "me people." I'm a redhead (although it's darker as I am older) and so are my kids. So it looks considerably like a lot of Irish folks who have been hanged. And rather menacing.

I mean, consider the issue with a different race substituted. If one had a bunch of African Americans hanging from trees in honor of, say, Juneteenth. I know-- it's hard to even leave the statement there because I know it'll make you cringe. But it's not even thought about for me, and probably, if I had a lot of commenters on here, someone would say I was being too sensitive. It's not the same.

Well, I do admit that it isn't exactly the same but it's close. You gotta know how badly the Irish were treated in this and other English-based countries. And yet, these racist stereotypes are just fine. Yes, I make the same stupid jokes "Why did God create whisky-- to keep the Irish from ruling the world" but it still begs the question of whether anyone has ever thought that hanging little people from trees as a "decoration" celebrating St. Patrick's day is inappropriate.

Several years ago, as part of my "Cultural practices" paper assignment, a student wrote about St. Patrick's Day. She described how it was a holiday where people went to parades, ate funnel cake & drank green beer. No mention of who the heck this St. Patrick felow is, and what he supposedly did. No mention of it being about Irish pride. Nah. It's FUNNEL CAKE!!! AND BEER! And Irish folks hanging from trees! Yeeeeee haaaawwwwwww.

Hmm. This post was meant to be kind of funny but apparently that's not happening. I don't object to St. Pat's celebrations. I love the idea that my heritage is being acknowledged-- another neighbor had Irish flags up, the way people drape their balconies w/ American swag flags on the 4th of July. THAT was cool. It didn't make me feel vaguely threatened. It made me feel proud. It was something that I can imagine explaining to my kids someday-- what the colors on the flag mean, and why a shamrock. THAT'S the point of the celebration. Heritage, and pride in where we came from and how far we've come.

So have some green beer (yuck) if you must, but at least know who the Hell St. Patrick is, and what the day is celebrating. And realize that the fact that you may not know about how badly Irish folks were treated in this and other countries, and the ethnic strife that still happens, means that we have come a long way, baby.

Just don't hang us from trees! And if you vomit green beer later today, remember: it's not supposed to be green. Try the good stuff.


Anonymous said...

well, i don't celebrate it, nor do i really celebrate any other "day" like Xmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, 4th of July, but you know that. that being said, i have NEVER heard of someone HANGING effigies from trees on St. Patty's, that is fucked up my friend. I don't care if the effigies are black, white, green, yellow, red...that is just fucked. i wish i could come by and toilet paper their house...with used toiled paper.

kim wells said...

I don't think they really realize how awful the little things are. They're just like wind socks or something, but hanging from a tree like that, spinning with their little feet dancing around, it's just creepy. I wonder if I can get a picture. I'll see w/ my phone when I go by there later.

nissa, goddess after five said...

I would rather vomit green beer than red wine. At least I don't think I'm bleeding.

I just had three margaritas too. I'm biased.