|NYPD Emerald Society marching band in the St Patrick's Day parade in New York (Chang Lee/New York Times)
Political correctness is making its move on St. Patrick’s Day I fear.
There were two articles over the weekend, one in The New York Times, the other The Irish Times, making the same point.
We need to be more inclusive and St. Patrick’s Day should become less Irish and more of an opportunity for all immigrants to celebrate.
To which I say, hooey.
Here are just two extracts.
This from Dr. James Flannery of Emory University in Atlanta in The Irish Times.
It was entitled "St Patrick's Day celebrates the role of all US migrants."
“My hope is that some day the celebration of St Patrick’s Day in Atlanta will become a genuine multicultural holiday, with every year a different ethnic group honored at the head of the parade.
“Imagine a St Patrick’s Day parade that, over time, included Chinese dragons, Mexican mariachi bands, Caribbean steel drummers and Korean acrobats, all marching alongside green-clad Irish pipers and step dancers.”
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I must mention that Jim Flannery is a dear friend of long standing, an inspirational figure in Ireland where he staged the Yeats Cycle of Plays at the Abbey Theater and introduced an unknown young composer called Bill Whelan later of “Riverdance” fame, to the world.
For decades he has been a bastion of Irish culture and influence in the south.
But on this occasion I respectfully disagree with him.
The second piece was in The New York Times with the same gist.
“This March 17, on this side of the water, we ought to be celebrating immigration, not just Irishness," writes the author Peter Behrens.
“It’s About Immigrants Not Irishness” was the title of the piece, which says it all.
It is suddenly becoming fashionable to recast the March 17th holiday as a one size fits all day that we can celebrate all immigrants.
But that is neither the history nor the intent of the day from time immemorial.
I embrace Martin Luther King Day for what it is, a celebration of an incredible American, who did for his risen people what no leader before him could do.
When you look at Barack Obama you know it could never have been possible without MLK.
I don’t want to interject an Irish element to Martin Luther King Day, as that would, frankly, be ridiculous.
It’s a day for African Americans to celebrate their success.
I feel the same about Puerto Rican Day here in New York and love the mariachi bands and the free and open atmosphere of their parade, so different to what we have on St. Patrick’s Day.
One year I remember the Grand Marshal was an Elvis impersonator -- that's not something you'll ever see on March 17th I assure you!
Good for them.
Equally, I don’t want to demand that we walk too in that parade, nor in the Israeli Day or the Polish Day or German Day parades that are such a feature of our American summers.
Some years back I went to the Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown. It was brilliant, exotic and different.
An Irish pipe band among the exploding firecrackers would have looked and sounded ridiculous.
The Irish have a right to their day too, the celebration of the rise from the coffin ships to the White House, the flowering of a culture and a history that has given much to this country.
I love that other nationalities love St. Patrick’s Day, that they clearly have a great day out of it too, that the streets are packed for the spring ritual that rivals Mardi Gras.
But let’s not have a multicultural Saint Patrick’s Day.
That defeats the very notion of what this country is all about “E Pluribus Unum,” from all, one, each separate but together as a nation.
So with due respect to Doctor Jim and the writer Mr. Behrens I say, let’s keep the Irish front and center on Saint Patrick’s Day.
Let's enjoy our different histories, not try and mesh them.