One of the biggest mistakes anyone can ever make in my presence is to insult my heritage.
"St. Patrick's Day is stupid," a middle-aged, paunch-sporting man at the bus stop dared to say as a few of us sportin' our green began to gather. "What's so great about the Irish?"
Boy did he pick the wrong girl to ask that question ... My answer went something like this.
The Irish have survived centuries of political and religious tyranny. Yet they could not be burned out, stamped out or starved out. They washed clothes, plowed fields, built railroads. Those that managed to leave Ireland's borders, never really left it behind. They carried their roots along, too, planting them all around the world. They've continued to take hold, many, many generations down the line.
I, for one, think there are a lot of great things about the Irish. And I'll thank you not to besmirch the rich heritage that Edward, Francis and John, and Bridget, Mary (I wrote about those two great ladies, each representing a different side of my family, in this post last year) and Julia gave to me. I can only hope that I have proven worthy of all the sacrifices they made so that I could be here. And then I walked away.
Two people applauded.
For a lot of people, St. Patrick's Day is about drinking green beer, wearing green clothing and occasionally donning some over-the-top costumes to go watch a parade. But not me.
Maybe this sense of nationalism for a place I've never even been is foolish. But not to me. It embodies all the many generations who came before me. And I'm proud to be part of their stock. The middle-class they helped foster is under siege (particularly at the state level ) all over this country so maybe some of that pride will help foster a movement to reclaim its rightful place. But that's for another post.
I think it's great that in this country we celebrate the Irish -- whether we are or not. And that it is one of the many celebrations for various nationalities that we have come to hold dear. It's one of the many things that make us a great country. I'm American by chance because someone, or several someones, decided to become American by choice. And I respect all those of any nationality who have done the same. Never ever forget where you came from.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!