Awakening with a slight fever on March 17, I realized that this would be only the 4th time in 50 years that I would not march in the magnificent New York parade up the Queen of Avenues. After liver transplant surgery two years ago, I’d been cautioned against crowds due to a low immune system enacted to avoid rejection and so I resigned to make the best of my fate, by watching the celebration on commercial TV. WHAT A MISTAKE THAT WAS!
I would have been better risking illness, for what I saw was sickening enough. Obviously America’s major networks have no sense of what we Irish are all about. If I saw one fool dressed up as a leprechaun, I saw dozens. Fox news even had a quintet of costumed morons kicking up their heels in a mock jig behind a performance by Black 47. Larry Kirwin should have known better. Fake exaggerated accents called brogues permeated the airwaves and the term St Paddy was repeated ad nauseum.
Hoping for some recognition of the true contributions of the Irish to world culture, I checked out A&E’s History Channel. Now, I knew that there were “complaints of misleading information in some of their programs” according to Wikipedia. I had even corrected them on their presentation which identified the Zorro legend with Joaquin Murrieta instead of Wexford-born William Lamport as was verified by Fabio Troncarelli, Professor of Human Science at the University Della Tuscia, in Viterbo, Italy, who discovered the story researching the history of the Inquisition in Mexico. But I figured I’d give them a try anyway, after all one of their managers is named O’Connell. The first program I noted was called “Paddy Whacked” – the story of the Irish Mob in which Ireland’s nationalist resistance to Crown oppression was incorrectly identified as a tradition of Irish violence against authority and the reason for the Irish inclination to becoming natural gangsters. Granted, there were some Irish who turned to crime in a society that rejected them for their immigrant status and their religion, but how insulting it is to highlight those few and exclude programs on the majority of the Irish who contributed to scientific and civic improvement as doctors, lawyers, judges and politicians, not to mention the support provided to sports and the arts such as theater, music, and literature. It was especially misleading when the roster of Irish criminals included such names as ‘Mad Dog’ Coll, ‘Legs’ Diamond and Owney Madden, none of whom knew anything more about a connection with their Irish heritage than how to spell their last names!
However a redeeming offering appeared on their affiliated International History Channel entitled “Saint Patrick – the Man the Myth and the Legend”. Then came the New York Parade televised by NBC which is to be complimented on their coverage, as is John Dunleavy and his committee for an excellent presentation of a true picture of our heritage despite the plastic paddies on the sidelines with the hats shaped like mugs of beer and the shamrocks plastered on their faces. I should have stopped there, for after the parade, NBC’s ‘Ellen degenerated’ the Irish with her opening monologue about Irish drinking then further debased our Irish heritage by putting on a pair of Dutch wooden shoes and calling them Irish Clogs. That was the end of TV for this writer.
I went into my library and selected a good book on the history of Ireland and was appropriately moved with pride in all that my ancestors have suffered, accomplished and ultimately given to an ungrateful world!