January 14, 2014

Tim Pat Coogan

Tim Pat Coogan

The thing is, even the Irish acknowledge their own “shiftlessness,” doling out self-deprecating sampler mottos such as, “God invented whiskey to keep the Irish from taking over the world.” Yet they’re deep in denial, too. I got into an online tussle with a former colleague for pointing out the well-documented obvious: that, pace the Know-Nothings, Irish immigrants to America were drunken, brawling, baby-vending machines”€”“paddy wagon,” anyone?”€”and only public shaming by one of their own forced them to (mostly) clean up their act and gift America with, well, the Kennedy family. (Hmmm…speaking of reparations….)

What the Irish have going for them is a deep well of goodwill and affection thanks to all their Quiet Man blarney and “Danny Boy” racket. I witnessed this recently during lunch with some Jewish friends and one Irish one.

The Jewish side of the table expressed their admiration for those charming Irish folks with their indomitable humor and perseverance, their genius for writing and gift of gab. Admiration turned to shock, however, as my friend and I revealed something they found impossible to believe: that the Irish are viciously envious types who begrudge anyone else’s material success, even that of their own children.

I recalled the Irish mom of a high-school friend who tried to talk her daughter out of going to law school by whimpering, “Wouldn’t you rather be a nice clean shop girl?” My friend related similar “So you think you’re too good fer us now, eh, college boy?” conversations.
To their credit, the Irish haven’t pulled any “niggardly” stunts like, say, campaigning against the use of “A Modest Proposal” as a “divisive,” “racist” rhetorical tool that might encourage the cannibalism of Emerald Isle infants.

But like certain other ethnic groups of easy recollection, the Irish will never let go of the learned helplessness that’s maneuvered them into that “identity politics” sweet spot where persecution and pride overlap.

Contrary to those goddamn songs they sing all the time, the Irish would really rather bitch than fight.



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