17 March 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

The custom of eating corned beef and cabbage in honor of Ireland's patron saint is a strange one. They don't eat corned beef in Ireland and they seem to regard our across-the-Atlantic customs (like green beer) as a bit on the weird side. But Irish-Americans are a vociferous lot, and even a hint of Irish blood seems to make otherwise reasonable folks go nutty for the day. How else do you explain the green face paint, leprechaun hats and shamrock stickies? They say everyone gets to be Irish for a day, and I've certainly partied hardy with folks who couldn't sniff an Irish relative in 10 generations. Like Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick's Day has become thoroughly American-ized. Sure we drink Guinness and Corona, but the rest of it is more like the Super Bowl or the Fourth of July than anything truly ethnic. That's cool with me, actually. George Carlin once remarked that being Irish was "fun" but not anything to be proud of. He felt proud of things that he actually accomplished, like being a father and writing books and making TV specials. He had nothing to do with his being Irish, that was decided well in advance of his coming into the world. I like that. Ethnic pride is fine if you are downtrodden and oppressed, and no Irish person in America today can claim that. I'd like to see a post-racial world, where we have fun with our various backgrounds but don't let them determine who we are or where we are headed. I know that's easy for me to say here in this mobile, polyglot culture of ours. But in the end we are all mutts, and in the end we are all brethren. I'm going to be chewing on that thought tonight while I'm quaffing pints and gnawing on fatty corned beef and overcooked cabbage.


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