CATEGORY: St.-Patrick's-Day

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. We see an illuminating example of how the process might begin in Acts 17:23-34, where Paul stumbles upon an opportunity and seizes it like the last bottle of whiskey in Galway.

23For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

24God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;

25Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

26And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

27That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:

28For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

29Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.

30And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

31Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

32And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.

33So Paul departed from among them.

34Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Obviously there’s no reason at all to think that the Athenians were accidentally paying tribute to the Christian god, but understanding and accepting the essence and traditions of a culture was hardly the point.

But at least Patrick and other Christian missionaries of the time went the warm and fuzzy, let’s-all-sing-“Kumbaya” route, right? Ummm, is that what history has taught us about early Christians?

Patrick began to destroy the influence of the Druids by destroying the sacred sites of the people and building churches and monasteries where the Druids used to live and teach. Gradually, the might of the Druidic class was broken by a bitter campaign of attrition. Instead of hearing the teachings and advice of the Druids, the people began to hear the teachings of Rome. Because the Druids were the only ones who were taught to remember the history, with the Druids dead and their influence broken, the history was forgotten.

Patrick won. By killing off the teachers and the wise ones, his own religion could be taught. For this mass conversion of a culture to Christianity, and for the killing of thousands of innocent people, Patrick was made a Saint by his church. (Source)

In a very real way, the celebration of St. Patrick is a celebration of cultural genocide, and the fact that the millions of revelers parading in the streets this morning and packing every bar in America tonight don’t realize it – that they’re doing so perhaps as naïvely as the Druids might initially have welcomed Patrick – is of little comfort. Why? You tell me – would a fuller understanding of what happened put even the slightest dent in our nation’s annual green beer sales figures?

I’m not telling you to stay home or to forego a drink in remembrance of old Ireland. By all means, lift a pint tonight. But don’t do so in celebration of an inquisitor. Instead, do so in memory of the light that he helped extinguish.

To the Rose upon the Rood of Time
by William Butler Yeats

Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days!
Come near me, while I sing the ancient ways:
Cuchulain battling with the bitter tide;
The Druid, grey, wood-nurtured, quiet-eyed,
Who cast round Fergus dreams, and ruin untold;
And thine own sadness, whereof stars, grown old
In dancing silver-sandalled on the sea,
Sing in their high and lonely melody.
Come near, that no more blinded by man’s fate,
I find under the boughs of love and hate,
In all poor foolish things that live a day,
Eternal beauty wandering on her way.

Come near, come near, come near—Ah, leave me still
A little space for the rose-breath to fill!
Lest I no more hear common things that crave;
The weak worm hiding down in its small cave,
The field-mouse running by me in the grass,
And heavy mortal hopes that toil and pass;
But seek alone to hear the strange things said
By God to the bright hearts of those long dead,
And learn to chaunt a tongue men do not know.
Come near; I would, before my time to go,
Sing of old Eire and the ancient ways:
Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days.

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