Blast From The Past: My Problem With St. Patrick’s Day

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  1. Avatar Burt Likko
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    Editor’s note: A perusal of our site usage today showed a huge spike in hits on this post from search engines. Matthew Schmitz was an author here many years ago, and this post first appeared back when this blog was known as “The League of Ordinary Gentlemen” on March 17, 2010. So I’ve re-posted it today, and you all can debate whether its ideas are still relevant and important today. Tá ar é!Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq
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    Dan Savage has the right of it. Saint Patrick’s Day and Halloween are pretty much the cis-gender heterosexual equivalents of gay pride parades these days. Its a time when you can loose your inhibitions and get wild. In more Latin climates replace both with Carnival.

    There is a really good bar called the Gingerman, you can get mead there, located near the heart of Saint Patrick day celebrations in New York City. On Saint Patrick’s Day they get a lot of clueless people asking for bud or miller rather than the good beers they usually serve.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to LeeEsq
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      Man, If Dan Savage really suggested that Halloween is a cis-gender heterosexual equivalent to anything, he knows a lot less about what’s up with the gays that I would have suspected.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to LeeEsq
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      So I’ve re-posted it today, and you all can debate whether its ideas are still relevant and important today.

      Interesting question.

      On Saint Patrick’s Day they get a lot of clueless people asking for bud or miller rather than the good beers they usually serve.

      I would say the answer is no, but also yes.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Dwyer
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    I’m not sure I agree with this assessment. Italians, German Catholics, Easter Europeans…all were treated poorly in some way in America. I think St.Pat’s is so popular because Irish Americans have just been a lot more successful at positive branding. WWI & WWII really hurt the Germans. The Mafia really hurt Italians. The Irish just seem like fun-loving folks.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Mike Dwyer
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      Well, they do now! But there was a time that it wasn’t a particularly great thing to be Irish in America. And if you can get really close with an Irish-American family you will be allowed to see past the gregariousness, wit, festivity, and the romance of beautiful rural Ireland. It will be tempered with a bitter taste of melancholy and maybe even some lingering resentment, perhaps in the form of a rationalization of the Troubles.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko
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        I’m going to quibble with this a bit. There was a lot of hostility towards Irish immigrants during the mid-19th century but the Irish had some considerable advantages that other immigrant groups did not. They spoke English and were quickly able to attach themselves to the Democratic political machines that ran most American cities. Their bloc voting opened up many opportunities in the form of government jobs that other immigrant groups lacked. Since they are the dominate group in the Roman Catholic Church, they had a powerful institution independent of the American government to help them against the worst abuses of Protestant America that other immigrant groups and African-Americans lacked. Things were rough but not as rough for others on the wrong side of American society.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Burt Likko
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        I should also note that I’m 25% Irish. My family came here in the 1850s. When I say they seem fun-loving, I mean based on the positive branding. We’ve just had better luck than many groups and also no major negatives to associate with the ethnicity the way some other groups have had.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Mike Dwyer
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          The Irish used to have a reputation of being great complainers filled with woe. There is a cartoon from the early 1960s about the unluckiest man in New York having an Irish psychologist who just laments about his problems and a Jewish bartender that gently nudges him not to be out on a night like this and drink milk instead.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Burt Likko
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        I don’t think this persecution was mostly about being Irish in America; more about being Irish in the old country – the abuses of absentee landlords and the great famine outweighing snobbish treatment from the Anglo-Americans and “no Irish need apply” signs.

        Which, there were plenty of other badly persecuted groups of white people who fled to the Americas, but I guess making the leads in Gone With The Wind, say, Doukhobors would have achieved the overcoming-persecution bit, but made the characters “too ethnic” – insufficiently anglophone and all.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Burt Likko
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        Whatever you do, don’t steal the potatoes off another man’s plate.
        [This is a raconteur’s joke…in other words, the beginning of a very true story.]Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer
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      As an Italian-American, I can say that there is also something to the fact that many Italians do not embrace their whiteness in part because whiteness was something that was at one time denied to them.

      Let’s make no bones about it: I am undoubtedly a white person and enjoy much white privilege. I will not pretend otherwise. But there are many supposed elements of white American culture that are foreign to me: camping, hiking, golf, skiing. Some of that is economic but there is also something cultural there. Those aren’t things our Nonnas and Nonnos in the old country did. When we settled in NYC and Jersey City and Hoboken, those weren’t things we did. And any one with a vowel at the end of his name who attempted was often shut out.

      If you ask many Italian-Americans about their background, they will often cite their Italian heritage before their whiteness. And not in quite the same way that many white people don’t claim whiteness.

      I don’t know how this compares to the Irish-American experience. But when you got into the “club” — when you were more or less offered the full package of benefits that whiteness offered — I think greatly impacts these dynamics.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird
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    Are we sure that its popularity is not a dog-whistle manifestation of White Supremacy given that it’s a holiday that explicitly celebrates white people?Report

  5. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    There’s another white group whose history of persecution puts the Irish to shame, but we’re not known for heavy drinking.Report

  6. Avatar veronica d
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    I’m in Boston. For me St. Pat’s day is “get home before sunset and don’t go outside cuz drunk douchebags will kick my ass” day. So anyway. Have fun everyone!Report

  7. Avatar LeeEsq
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    The first Saint Patrick’s Parade was actually run by Irish Protestants in New York City during the late 18th century.Report

  8. Avatar Alan Scott
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    This post is has been assigned the color green in the “State of the discussion” section.

    Is that something you guys choose? or a happy coincidence?Report

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