Wednesday Wardrobe Alert: Black skirt, brown long-sleeved t-shirt, brown striped socks, black hoodie.
There’s an absence of green in that description, and that’s intentional. I love the colour green. It’s my absolute favourite, and always has been. But you will never see me wear green on March 17. You also aren’t likely to see me drinking beer, acting like an arse, and telling people to kiss me because of my ethnicity.
Disclosure: I come from Irish. If you’ve ever seen me, there’s little question. My family immigrated to Canada at the end of the 1840s. We’re Famine Irish, and many of my extended family members are still practicing Catholics. (if you know anything about Irish history, that bit of information is important.)
What’s my deal, then? Shouldn’t I be drinking Shamrock Shakes, kissing the Blarney Stone, and dancing a drunken jig in a pub right about now, especially with the kids still away?
I don’t think so. You see, I’m not in the habit of celebrating cultural genocide. Strong words?
Perhaps. But maybe not.
St. Patrick’s Day is little more than the celebration of the coerced conversion of a nation of people away from longstanding spiritual tradition, the beginning of the disappearance of language and rich cultural history. And it brings out the worst stereotypes of Irish people even as we’re encouraged to be proud of our heritage. Because we’re all raving (though funny and musical!) drunks.
Some do struggle with alcohol (and other substance) abuse. There may be something to the stereotype. Looking at my family tree over the last century or so, it wouldn’t surprise me if a good half of the branches were soaked in booze. Does that mean that we’re just predisposed to addictive personalities? Or, as is the case for many other indigenous populations, is this the aftermath of colonialism?
We’re roughly 1600 years post-contact now, and (all but Northern) Ireland is a sovereign nation. The Irish language is the official tongue of the land. The poets, the novelists, the artists – all in full force. Those of us living in the Irish diaspora are no longer seen as sub-human and forbidden from entering public buildings (“No Irish, No Dogs,” anyone?). Many of us have overcome ongoing generational poverty and have broken the cycle of alcoholism our families have dealt with for … well, centuries.
I know very few people who share my feelings on the celebration of this day. To each their own. But when the colonial parallels can be so clearly drawn, how is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day any less problematic than celebrating Columbus Day?