Sunday, March 16, 2008
This Post is Dedicated to Irish Eyes; Happy St. Patrick Day!
By Daniel Patrick Welch
March 16, 2008
"Editor’s Note: The celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day – like so many other holidays – has become an opportunity to get together with friends and to party, which is all well and good. But there is often a serious dimension to the events or the people behind the holidays.
In this guest essay, Daniel Patrick Welch reminds us that the “wearing of the green” represented resistance to English repression:
Another Saint Patrick's Day is here, with its tacky kegs of green beer, leprechauns, lucky charms, fake plastic hats and all imaginable variety of gaudy faux-Irish...um..."charm."
But it needn't be so. The holiday offers up an incredible opportunity to expose children (and adults, of course) to the history of struggle of a courageous people -- England's first and last colony -- and, by extension, to shed light on the legacy of colonization and imperialism and the universal nature of popular resistance.
At the risk of using one of the thankfully less egregious cliches, the Irish have long been a musical and literate people, a country where, as the poet said, "All her wars are merry, and all her songs are sad."
Even the most cursory outline of Irish history yields a treasure trove of struggles, uprisings, and oppression -- the practice field on which the British Empire honed its techniques. Fortunately, for those whose task is to educate, the songs are beautiful, moving, and largely self-explanatory. While the diaspora revels in the Luck O' the Irish and sports "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" buttons, we'll be singing "The wearing of the Green," a concise, if simplified explication of the tradition of wearing green.
Distilled by generations of mass marketing into Irish Pride, the practice was actually a passive form of resistance to British rule, symbolizing the culture, language, religion and traditions ruthlessly suppressed in the wake of the Wolfe Tone and other uprisings (two centuries ago).....
Many of them, like Pearse's Rebel, are "come of the seed of the people." It is hardly a stretch that, by the end, they share the Rebel's scorn for his tormentors and his warning to his people's masters:
"Beware. Beware of the thing that is coming. Beware of the risen people, who shall take what ye would not give. Did you think to conquer the people? Or that law is stronger than life, or than man's desire to be free?"
It's always an exhilarating moment, and a potent opportunity, to invest a holiday marketed as one more excuse to party with a bit more meaning and purpose -- and hope, so that one day the "tyrants, hypocrites, and liars" might tremble at The Thing That is Coming.
hear Danny's rendition of Padraig Pearse's The Rebel here and The Wearing of the Green here"