HBO talk show host Bill Maher – a New Jersey-born Irish American – celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by suggesting that the US is in such bad shape it may be on its way to becoming another Ireland.
“As great a country as Ireland is, you can’t really think about the Irish without thinking about division. And I can’t help thinking about us right now, when I think about that,” said Maher to…absolutely no laughs at all.
Because, of course, this is not funny.
It’s not exactly new either.
There are many things wrong with comparing and contrasting six counties of 1.5 million or so Europeans with 300-plus million folks from all corners of the globe.
But let’s pause just a moment, to pile on some more bad news for the United States.
One could argue that America would be quite lucky to be in the shape that Northern Ireland is in.
After all, we are soon to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement which ushered in a tenuous but nevertheless holding peace in Northern Ireland.
What are we celebrating in the US? Just over a year since a departing president refused to depart.
And, um, suggest that his loyal followers storm the seat of government. And toss a few thousand wrenches into the machinery of democracy.
You can’t accuse Donald Trump of failing to issue a warning before the attack. The IRA used to phone one in. Trump made a whole damn speech right in public!
And Maher does make a point worth considering here. If this were merely a Trump problem – a Republican problem – it might not be so worrisome.
But the first thing that must be accepted by both American factions is that this is a problem that has resulted from the words and actions of both American factions.
Both howl about the other. This comes in handy because it makes it hard to hear those who are trying to point out that the left and the right act an awful lot like each other.
Just this week, I read a piece in The New Republic titled “Conservatives Are Trying to Ban Books in Your Town.” It detailed how “a right-wing mania is destroying the social fabric of communities across America.”
And in a completely unrelated article, that has nothing to do with anything at all published recently by The New Republic, The Atlantic magazine recently featured a piece about a wide range of organizations that are “cleans(ing) language of any trace of privilege, hierarchy, bias, or exclusion.” As a result, “equity-language guides are proliferating among some of the country’s leading institutions, particularly nonprofits…the words these guides recommend or reject are sometimes exactly the same, justified in nearly identical language. This is because most of the guides draw on the same sources from activist organizations: A Progressive’s Style Guide, the Racial Equity Tools glossary, and a couple of others.”
The very ugliest part of this is that proud loudmouths walk around utterly confident they are saving humanity from wicked peril.
One group is saving humanity from drag shows and Judy Blume. The other is saving humanity from words that are so violent they need to explain, over and over, precisely why these words are so violent.
Admittedly, none of this is exactly new. Nor unique to America.
Many places squabble over seemingly silly things.
Why, there’s even a place where a fight might break out if you refer to it as “Northern Ireland,” rather than, say, “the North of Ireland.”
But at least they have something to celebrate soon.
(On Twitter and Instagram: @tomdeignan)