Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Luck of the Irish

I remember envying the Irish when I was growing up. They had a great holiday that everyone loved and celebrated; a big jolly party. You wore your green sweater, colored shamrocks and hung them all over the classroom.
We Polish-Americans weren’t so lucky; the only public acknowledgement of our heritage was Polack jokes.
Where’s the best place to hide money from a Polack?
Under a bar of soap.
And on and on. Polacks were dumb and dirty. The point was reiterated endlessly. The jokes were too moronic to wound but were frequent enough to blunt any incipient interest in Polish culture I might have, which I’m sure was not much. I was not interested in all that old stuff. And I wasn’t Polish, I was American.
These days, I’m thinking that maybe the Polish-Americans got the better deal. Chicago kids get off on Pulaski Day, but the day is not cause for wild celebrations of non-Polish people.
But the Irish are forced to see their culture, the culture of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett, reduced to green draft beer and “Kiss me I’m Irish” T-shirts.
Of course, this cultural reductionism doesn’t afflict only the Irish but they are unfortunate enough to have a wildly popular holiday that becomes a day-long spectacle of these reductions.

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