Sunday, March 05, 2006

I'm Irish

No, I'm really not. But my claim to Irishness is certainly stronger than that of most people here who, in their brazen mid-West drawl, make such a claim. (And BTW, the statement is very much, "I am Irish" not "I have Irish heritage/roots")

Everyone you meet here is Irish and they attribute an infinite number of different personality traits to that "fact". I've gotten myself in numerous arguments with people about it as I endeavour to persuade them that if they have never known anyone who has known anyone who has known anyone who lived in Ireland, the claim to the Emerald Isle's effect on their character is a somewhat weak one. A pint of Guinness on St. Patrick's Day does not count! Three pints of the stuff on a Tuesday morning?..... maybe.

I'm reminded of a Have I Got News For You when Paul Merton is trying to wind up Ian Hislop who is refusing to acknowledge his Welshness, despite the fact that he was born there, admantly asserting himself to be English. Paul Merton then says "Fine, if you're English then I'm Swedish!" to which Angus Deayton asks: "Were you born in Sweden?". The reply.... "No, but my furniture does come from there." Okay, so it's not that funny and maybe not even that relevant but to me, your identity is a product of your environment and upbringing and the people in your life. To claim such a strong relationship with a country to which you have never been and from where you know no-one is ridiculous.

It's an interesting attribute and perhaps I shouldn't be irritated by it but, well, I am. Maybe it stems from a lack of American history and the belief that an affiliation with an exotic (ha!) country makes them that much more special. Maybe it's from a general insecurity about being American. And I do get the sense that the American national identity is a fairly insecure one. With national anthem's sung all the goddamn time and stars and stripes everywhere (standing in the middle of the National Mall, at the foot of the Washington Monument, in one 360 degree panorama, me and Chris counted 14 flags and we probably missed a few), like the Subways last night, it strikes me that maybe they're trying too hard. In other words, the more, and more vehemently, someone says something the less convincing it seems.

That probably sounds meaner that it should. I don't think America or Americans have anything to worry about. This is a great country with a lot of great people and with really very little to be worried about. I love it here and have had some awesome experiences that I couldn't have had anywhere else. So I say to y'all yez Yankees, be proud of being American but step away from the shamrock....

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