My itinerant friend, Mike Dodd of Webster Groves, just sent me a screed puncturing all the myths about the Irish and the Old Sod. He has the chops to do this – his clan is Celtic and his relatives bear names like Donnelly and Connors.
Dodd notes that the Irish breakfast staple is steel cut oatmeal, not Lucky Charms. The thatched roof houses of Eire are disappearing, even as the isle’s many castles are becoming resort destinations. The seven-course evening meal in Ireland is not a six-pack and a potato.
Dodd bristles at the stereotype of the Irish as drunks. He’s armed with stats that show 20 percent of the Irish are teetotalers. Stats also show Germans, Russians, Czechs, Poles and Australians are far heavier drinkers than the Irish.
President Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, whom Trump dismissed as a “dumb Southerner,” was not above using hackneyed Irish stereotypes. In one shocking exchange with the FBI’s Andrew McCabe, Sessions gave the Irish a backhanded compliment.
Sessions told McCabe the FBI was a better organization when “you all only hired Irishmen.” Drawing on the archaic and offensive stereotypes, he clarified: “They were drunks, but they could be trusted. Not like all these new people with nose rings and tattoos ... ”
My Irish kids, Brandon and Christa, are both living up to the legacy of the Irish as trustworthy and as talented wordsmiths. One is in sports writing and the other is in business journalism.
When my kids were in grade school, I took the family to Ireland where I was giving a paper at Trinity College. We visited the haunts of writers like Yeats, Joyce, Swift, Behan, O’Casey and more.
We traveled to kiss the Blarney Stone, a pilgrimage that gives any visitor the gift of gab and eloquence. We also hiked up the high Cliffs of Moher, where I watched my daughter look westward to America as a stiff Atlantic Ocean wind messed with her golden hair.
I never dreamed I would actually lose my daughter to the Emerald Isle. She recently took a promotion to Dublin and last week settled into a home near Merrion Square, where Oscar Wilde and W. B. Yeats once lived.
When I first went to Dublin as a grad student, it was drab and Ireland seemed to be under clerical control. The Angelus prayers interrupted Irish TV regularly, causing a bit of discomfort in the pubs.
Today, Dublin is the happening place for ambitious millennials. Thanks to the Brexit vote – and a little help with that election from Putin – Britain is exiting the European Union and a lot of EU business activity is headed to Dublin.
The Irish have peeled off the straitjacket of “old ways.” They’re now more progressive than the U.S. on women’s issues, gay rights, health care and more.
I will cry some tears for my missing daughter at our St. Louis parades this Paddy’s Day, but my Irish eyes will also be smiling — for her good fortune.