Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An Irish-free St. Patrick's Day

For most of my life I've observed St. Patrick's Day. For the last almost 20 years, it has been my favorite day on the calendar. In my younger days, I celebrated with lots of booze and fantastic music. More recently, SPD has been a family day. We have a nice meal and talk about what our heritage means to us.

This year I think I'm gonna sit this one out. In the past I was almost obsessed with my Celtic heritage (I'm Scottish and Welsh, too.) Irish history and politics were my passion. This time last year I was teaching myself the Irish language, and loving it.

But something happened that killed all that in me. I spent a lot of time on an Irish nationalist website. I went there for the cultural stuff, but I also believed I had found kindred spirits politically. Eventually they showed themselves to be things that I despise: Jew-hating, Iran-loving, America-bashing bigots. After some young punk on this particular website talked about how American GI's "raped their way through Europe" during WWII, I couldn't take it anymore. I left the website. I also shelved my Gaelic instruction books and CDs.

What I left there was the part of me that loved Ireland and the Irish people. I'd like to get it back but it's. . . just . . . gone. There's nothing there now. That piece of my heart is dead and I can't seem to revive it, try as I might.

In the wake of that garbage, I went back and re-examined how very little in my personal life has anything to do with a few sets of great-great grandparents finding their way over here from Ireland. I'm an American, I'm not an Irishman. I'm a Yankee, even. Other branches of my family have been in this country since the first few waves of Pilgrim ships started arriving in New England in the 1620s. That's probably more honestly who I am: a Yankee WASP.

It seems silly if you don't know what my life was like a year ago, but this is something like a death for me. Much of the connection (emotional, spiritual) I had to generations that came before is just nonexistent.

Maybe the holiday itself will re-ignite a fondness. For now, though, I plan on simply letting 3/17/09 pass as just another Tuesday in March. I'm hoping it doesn't.

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