The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), the largest Irish American Catholic organization in the US, is speaking out after a Cleveland editor's recent column.
The AOH has accused Chris Quinn, the Editor of cleveland.com/The Plain Dealer, of 'defending paddywhackery' in a letter from the editor published on March 18 entitled "Seeking mirth but fearing outrage in a debate about a St. Patricks Day illustration."
The following statement was issued by Ancient Order of Hibernians National Anti-Defamation Chair Neil Cosgrove on March 20 in response to Quinn's letter:
In what can only be described as a bizarre opinion piece, "Seeking mirth but fearing outrage in a debate about a St. Patrick’s Day illustration," Chris Quinn, Editor and Vice President of Content for cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer, provides an incredible passive/aggressive attack on anyone who finds ‘Paddywhackery’ offensive.
Mr. Quinn recounts an editorial decision by his paper not to use an illustration for their St. Patrick’s Day feature that he describes as an “image of a grinning St. Patrick himself, in a pose Dean Martin might have used, holding a mug of sloshing green beer.”
Per Mr. Quinn, the editorial discussion not to use the image focused on two points; previous complaints about an earlier cartoon by The Plain Dealer that showed disguised ducks on a Catholic communion line seeking free bread and concerns, to quote Mr. Quinn, that “Given that some of those people [offended by their proposed depiction of St. Patrick] may have been imbibing their own green beer, we imagine that their objections might have grown more vociferous and pointed as the day progressed.”
So, per Mr. Quinn, even the decision to pull the defaming trope-ridden cover was made based on negative Irish stereotypes.
Unfortunately, Mr. Quinn does not let this ill-considered idea have the anonymous burial it deserves but instead goes on to make clear that he feels that the decision was made to appease people he considers too sensitive.
Following a predictable pattern of those who defend denigrating Irish tropes, Mr. Quinn first attempts to establish his lack of bias by revealing that he is “98% Irish through an ancestry test.” ‘98% Irish Quinn’ is not offended, his “Irish friends” in the newsroom were not offended, so QED the cartoon was not offensive. Besides being highly sanctimonious, this is akin to defending the demeaning stereotypes in “Gone With the Wind” because Hattie McDaniel was an African American who won an Oscar for their depiction.
Then, Mr. Quinn attempts to palliate the offensive depiction of St. Patrick by citing “the Irish people like a joke.” The questionable logic of defending a stereotype by invoking a generalization aside, the clear message is that anyone who disagrees with Paddywhackery is humorless. Yes, Irish people like a joke, but I have also found that people of all faiths and heritages also have a sense of humor.
The curiosity that Mr. Quinn has ‘piqued’ is not what the proposed image of a beer-guzzling St. Patrick looked like, but would using a similar image even be considered if another heritage was the target? Would the Cleveland Plain Dealer show disguised ducks looking for matzah at a Passover seder or have a comical depiction of Mohamed? I sincerely hope not. The issue is not one of humor or lack thereof but of respect and equity. There is no ‘mirth’ in engaging in stereotypes rooted in prejudice, even if those ignorant of their history think they are funny.
Mr. Quinn is clearly missing the real meaning of St. Patrick’s Day when he thinks the proposed defaming cover for the St. Patrick’s Day issue “contains the key elements - a big image of the saint wearing a liturgical headdress and robe along with the green beer that marks many a celebration.”
No, Mr. Quinn, the real meaning of St. Patrick’s Day is the celebration of a man kidnapped and enslaved as a youth who returned to the land of his oppressors, preaching a message of forgiveness and peace. The historical St. Patrick was one of the first recorded voices to denounce the evil of slavery. For that alone, St. Patrick’s Day should be respected and celebrated by people of all heritages and faiths. Your proposed illustration contains nothing of that 'key element.'
St. Patrick’s Day should be a time we remember that the Irish were America’s first refugee crisis and were greeted with hostility, bigotry, and accusations that they could never be true Americans because of their Catholic faith. Yet Irish Americans, through hard work, determination, and strong values, have achieved prominence in every field of American endeavor, even becoming the editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It is a time to remember the thousands of Irish immigrants who wear green on their graves in defense of America.
Given some of the issues that face our nation today, I cannot think of any more timely or relevant message, and certainly, this is better than the proposed Plain Dealer image of a tipsy St. Patrick.