Wednesday, May 27, 2015

National Pride

For many years, I identified as Irish. When it came time to celebrate our heritage in fifth grade, a friend and I raised our hands when our teacher came to Ireland on his big list of countries which might be represented by our predominantly anglo class. After all, I had spent years hearing tales from my father about his origins from the county Cavan, and how our relatives had escaped the Potato Famine by fleeing to America and dropping the "augh" from the end of their name to make it fit on the end of the forms at Ellis Island. This was only after they had aided Saint Patrick in the driving of all snakes from the North and South. The wearing of the green came so matter of fact for me that when it came time to pick a favorite basketball team, the Boston Celtics were the only choice for me. In one corner of my fifth grade room, David Murrow and I taped up our construction paper Irish flag, and offered up carefully sliced chunks of our Irish Shortbread. We decorated our desks with shamrocks and leprechauns so there would be no doubt who was there to represent the Emerald Isle. What I probably should have kept in mind as this institution was being formed, the one that I would carry with me into my forties and pass along to my son and anyone else who would listen, is the source. Most of what I learned about my roots came from my father. This is the guy who explained, with a straight face, that the reason he had lost his hair was the helmet that he had to wear when he was in the army.
Then, when my older brother turned fifty, my mother did us all the favor of tracing our path from the old country to the new, lo and behold, we had the wrong old country all these years. It turns out that The Old Country for Cavans was just a little further north and slightly to the east of the land of Ire, the land of Scots. It turns out that instead of serving my fifth grade classmates shortbread, I should have been feeding them haggis. The good news is that I don't have to return the family fortune to the right and true heirs of the castle, and none of the plans I have made historically or moving forward have much to do with the difference between Ireland and Scotland.
Until now.
This past weekend, in a landslide victory, voters in Ireland made same sex marriage legal. This just twenty years after decriminalizing homosexuality. In a predominantly and historically Catholic country. If I were Irish, I would be proud. And maybe now, for just a few days, I will be proud to wear my shamrock and my rainbow flag as a tribute to my adopted homeland. Hear that, Scotland? You're next.

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