One of my favorite history professors in college, a first generation Polish American Jew from New York (at Eastern Illinois University! Go figure?) Taught me that if you couldn't read history with empathy, there was no purpose to it. He taught us that we should read the history of Cherokee people, the Warsaw ghetto, slavery, Tibet, (Warning: Not a complete list) and weep; if we couldn’t, there was no point in learning history.
For me, to read the history of Ireland is to weep, and yet one of the most oppressed peoples in the English-speaking world, have given us some of its most beautiful, profound and valuable art. Irish immigrants to America where originally met with racism and bigotry, they were considered an ignorant, corrupt, diseased, uncivilized criminal community that was a threat to American culture.
I spent some time a few years ago teaching English as a second language here in Dallas to immigrants, of which 90% were from Mexico. According to the bigots on cable TV and the GOP, including one prominent Irish-American, these people were a threat to American culture because they are an ignorant, corrupt, diseased, uncivilized criminal community. The first American solider to die in Afghanistan? Latino. First American solider to die in Iraq? Latino. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
But it won't be an Irish celebration without a sad song, so here it is:
Happy St. Pat’s fellow immigrants, now where's me Guinness?