Kirby: Full of blarney or not, you may be Irish
By Robert Kirby
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Mar 15 2012 01:01AM
Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day. If you don’t wear green, consider yourself pinched, punched, soundly beaten or whatever punishment is currently in vogue.
I celebrate St. Pat’s day because I’m part Irish. It’s no big deal, really. After all, lots of people are part Irish, including some who don’t even know it.
Truthfully, I have but a drop of Irish blood in me. Sometime in the 17th century, a more ambitious than normal ancestor crossed over to England and joined the biological march that brought me here.
Frankly, his participation in the process explains a lot. It’s likely that dominant Irish DNA had a hand in my being highly erratic, generally insolent and completely irreverent.
Then again, it could just be the Scottish in me.
Even so, being Irish is nothing to be ashamed of. There was a time when that wasn’t true, back when ethnic and social barriers were more clearly defined. A stupid time, really.
Being Irish wasn’t always something one bragged about. For a long time in America, being Irish was something one tried to keep to oneself.
Eventually, America discovered that if Irishmen weren’t good for anything else, they nevertheless made excellent cannon fodder. They became soldiers, bartenders and cops. Irish women, meanwhile, were red-headed harpies who beat their drunken husbands with whatever came to hand, all the while bearing yet more Irish.
Fortunately, things have changed. Today, more Irish live in America than in Ireland. We are everywhere. And we aren’t shy anymore about being Irish, part Irish or even pretend Irish.
Saturday’s parade in Salt Lake City is proof. People who couldn’t possibly have a drop of blarney in them become Irish for a day. They march, they sing, they drink and let the world know how good it is to be green.
There are subtle ways to tell if you’re part Irish. You could puzzle it out with genealogy, but it’s easier than that.
For starters, if your last name starts with an "O" followed by an apostrophe, there’s an excellent chance that you’ve got shamrock DNA. Even if you’re also black, Latino, Jewish or native whatever. Really, there’s no accounting for love.
If you love the color green, ever had the odd urge to throw rocks at duly constituted authority, love explosives and are inclined to sing long pointless ballads, you could have a touch of the blarney in you. Bear in mind that I’m just guessing now.
The Irish (including my forebears and probably yours) have contributed significantly to the building of America. In addition to getting shot at a lot, they also built railroads, guided river boats, helped settle the West and — what else?
Oh, the Irish invented the concept of the American gang. Long before the Italian Mafia, Jewish racketeers, motorcycle clubs and drug-addled LA street gunners, Irish gangs were squeezing a criminal profit out of urban America. You have to admire that kind of ingenuity.
OK, that’s a pointless stretch. Far more significant, the Irish have been actors, astronauts, business leaders, artists, scientists, educators and musicians. We also invented green beer.
My point is that the Irish helped make America what it is today. As a bit of an Irishman, I think it’s great. But if you don’t like how things have turned out, detach and send the Irish part of you back where it came from.