Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Against St. Patrick’s Day

I’m going to do something that some may think is heretical. I’m going to not drink on St. Patrick’s Day.

I’m taking a break from drinking for a while for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with the patron saint of Ireland. But even if I was in full drinking mode right now, I’d still be putting away the alcohol on St. Patrick’s Day.

Let’s face an ugly fact: for most Americans on St. Patrick’s Day, even most Americans of Irish heritage, St. Patrick’s Day is little more than an excuse to be drunk and stupid. I have nothing against wanting to be drunk and stupid; it’s good and natural to want that. But let’s quit pretending we’re really celebrating Irish heritage.

The Irish embrace the ugliest stereotypes about themselves and hold them up for celebration. I can think of no other race of people on earth so enamored with their own weaknesses. I’m glad that the Irish have not given themselves over to wholesale professional victimhood (though that may be on its way), but the green beer and jokes about being drunk are little more than blandly accepted ethnic slurs. Frankly speaking, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by drinking beer is like celebrating Martin Luther King Day by smoking crack.

I don’t rightly expect to do away with St. Patrick’s Day parades, the fighting Irishman, or even green beer (though you should have more respect for beer than to drink it). And I’d be the biggest hypocrite on earth to tell people to avoid drinking and good times.

But maybe, just maybe consider doing something that celebrates Irish culture and history in its own right.

Here are some good alternative drinking holidays:

January 26 – General Andrew Jackson wins the Battle of New Orleans on this date in 1815. Americans in New Orleans from that point forward would be free to drink themselves into a coma and bare their breasts for beads without interference from the British crown.

January 29 – On this day in 1880, W.C. Fields was born. The actor was famous for his drinking and once said, “A woman drove me to drink, and I never had the decency to thank her for it.”

March 22 – Celebrate the beginning of the end of Prohibition. On this date in 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, which allowed the sale of beer for the first time since the start of Prohibition. The 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition, was fully ratified on December 5.

July 21 – Birthday of Ernest Hemingway (1899), great American writer and also prolific drinker. It would be easier to name the non-drinking writers, but some other famous drinking writers’ birthdays include Jack Kerouac (March 12), Charles Bukowski (August 16) and Hunter S. Thompson (July 18).

And here are some alternative Irish holidays to celebrate:

March 4 – Birthday of Robert Emmet, Irish rebel born in 1778 and executed by the British on September 20, 1804. His rebellion began July 23, 1803, if you’d rather celebrate his legacy in July. He gave a famous Speech from the Dock at his trial.

April 24: April 24, 1916 was the start of the Easter Rising, the rebellion in Ireland against the government of the United Kingdom that set in motion the events that eventually led to Ireland’s freedom (most of Ireland anyway, there are six counties in the North that are still part of the U.K.). The rebels were a small group of brave Irishmen and Irishwomen. Most of the leaders were executed.

June 16 – June 16 is Bloomsday, the day in 1904 in which the James Joyce novel Ulysses takes place. Leopold Bloom travels about Dublin, drinks, eats gorgonzola sandwiches, masturbates during a fireworks show, and does other stuff that sound a lot more fun than slogging your way through Ulysses (which you should totally do; I’ll go back and finish reading it … some day).

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