St. Patrick’s Day: wearing o’ the black

CATEGORY: St.-Patrick's-DayOriginally posted 3.17.08 and re-posted each St. Patrick’s Day.

I won’t be wearing green today.

Don’t get me wrong – like many Americans, I’ve got plenty of Irish blood in my veins, and I’m quite happy to celebrate that heritage.

But this St. Patrick thing… Sadly, very few people have stopped to think about exactly what they’re celebrating, or whom. Patrick is credited with leading the Christianization of Ireland and it’s said he “drove the snakes out” of the place. That, of course, is metaphorical. The serpent was an ancient druidic symbol of wisdom, and the thing that was literally driven out of (or murdered and buried in the ground of) Ireland was the vibrant, centuries-old culture of the Celts. There aren’t any snakes native to Ireland, but that’s about evolution, not Patricius.

When a Christian missionary went into a new place it was with one goal – extinguish what he found and replace it with Christianity. Continue reading

Peace painted large

by Kaitlin Lindahl

She’s staring at me, her blue eyes wide awake, but I have nothing to say. From outside the bus window, I stare back, entranced. The man a few seats ahead of me is telling me all about her – personal moments that are now engrained as tidbits of fact and history. She’s 14, just come home from school. Her ivory face captured in a complex mix of surprise and serenity – probably nothing like how she looked the moment before she died.

Her name is Annette, and though she’s painted stories high on the side of a building, she’s speaking to me. She died accidentally in a crossfire. A war she had no ammunition for crept into the boundaries of her backyard and took her life. She never had a say. Continue reading

Castro and Miami's Cuban community and what the hell was Ozzie Guillen thinking?

Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen recently lost his freakin’ mind. He told Time that

I love Fidel Castro…I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [SOB] is still there.

Predictably, the world then stopped spinning on its axis.

The poetry and magic of Ireland's rural South: a photoessay

by Andrea Breemer Frantz

“It is one thing to adore a painting…but it is quite another thing to learn from a painted narrative what to adore.” – Clifford Geertz, cultural anthropologist, Local Knowledge

For most of my childhood, my mother’s father was primarily two things to me: 1) a magician with uncanny ability to conjure quarters from my ears and candy from nearly anywhere; and 2) a poet whose artful word craftsmanship I did not inherit. Continue reading

Nota Bene #119: Think! It Ain't Illegal Yet

“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #99: Heed the Peace Gnome

“You just pick up a chord, go twang, and you’ve got music.” Who said it? Continue reading

Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1499: Ireland outlaws blasphemy

On January 1 most of the world rolled forward into a new decade. The Catholic Republic of Ireland, meanwhile, rolled backward into a former century.

Lawmakers in staunchly Catholic Ireland passed the law in July, but it came into force January 1.

A person breaks the law by saying or publishing anything “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion.”

Errrm, wait a second. Continue reading

Nota Bene #95: STFU

Gonna try something different Continue reading

Whom will President Obama appoint as ambassadors?

Much of President Barack Obama’s pre-election stump speeches focused on the perceived need to reinvigorate America’s moral leadership around the world. Indeed, rhetoric on the White House website says, “President Obama and Vice President Biden will renew America’s security and standing in the world through a new era of American leadership.”

Critical first steps, many would argue, were his appointments of former rival and New York senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of State and adviser Susan Rice as ambassador to the United Nations. The president has sent former senator George Mitchell to the Mideast and Richard Holbrook to Afghanistan and Pakistan as special envoys. So far, so good.

Presidents appoint ambassadors to represent American interests abroad. Presumably presidents appoint seasoned, experienced foreign diplomats to such delicate tasks. So President Obama has dozens of ambassadors to appoint. And the first rumor is … Dan Rooney as ambassador to Ireland? The owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and president and co-founder of The American Ireland Funds?
Continue reading

William Butler Yeats: the soul of the warrior

I recall once hearing in a lecture that the Easter Rising rebels were influenced by the poetry of William Butler Yeats, and that they perhaps even read his work amongst themselves during the seven days they occupied Dublin’s General Post Office in April 1916. I can’t find a source to verify that they were reading Yeats while awaiting slaughter, but he was certainly a major player in the renaissance of Irish culture in the years leading up to the rebellion. He was also a prominent national figure after the Rising, being appointed to the new republic’s Senate just six years later.

It’s not clear, though, that Yeats ever dreamed of being a “sixty-year-old smiling public man” of an overtly political cast. Continue reading

The miracle of Belfast, the horror of Zimbabwe, and the opportunity for France

Several days of rioting have greeted Sarkozy’s victory in France. He must be quite thrilled about this. In June there are parliamentary elections in which he must win a majority in order to ensure that he can operate unimpeded. The rioting is perfect marketing.

Part of Sarkozy’s attraction for the average French person was rioting taking place over the past few years amongst France’s disaffected youth and alienated foreign immigrants. He has promised stern action against this type of behaviour and to route out its causes. Trotting out images of burning cars in the days after his election – before he has even done anything – is a sure-fire way of getting fence-sitters to agree that only Sarkozy’s brand of determination can get things done. If the Left in France is to ensure its relevance it will have to tone down its rhetoric and stop telling people that he is a “fascist”.

Further afield, two nations demonstrate astonishing lessons for Sarkozy, France, Europe, and anyone else who wants to listen.

Continue reading