Erin Go Blah

On March 17th, he’s the man.

St. Patrick’s Day just ended, and not a moment too soon.

I never was too jazzed about St. Patrick’s Day. And that’s fine. If it’s your bag, you’re welcome to it. St. Patrick doesn’t need my approval. Since driving the serpents (or pagans) from Ireland, he’s been driving millions of Americans to drink. Far be it from me to quarrel with ill-advised drinking binges. I just wonder if it all gets a bit insulting at times.

It’s one thing for Irish folks to go out and celebrate their heritage with a few too many pints and all the corned beef and cabbage they can handle — and even for their non-Irish friends to join them in the revelry. Far more than the feast day of a Catholic saint, revered for various and sundry miraculous works and acts of selflessness, this day is now an occasion for people to tramp through town, bar to bar, from early morning to late night, in green wigs and enormous green Cat-in-the-Hat chapeaux, shamrocks painted on their faces. It is a bastardization of a religious observation-turned-national-holiday. It is an entire culture reduced to a cartoon. For many on St. Patrick’s Day, moreso than any other day, “Irish” equals “drunk.”

New York is the city of parades. Everybody’s got one: lovers of Christmas, trick-or-treaters, wearers of Easter bonnets, gays, Italians, Puerto Ricans, Irish. We love identity politics in this city. It’s a defense against anonymity. And I love a parade, but honestly I’d rather watch golf. And so would a lot of other people, I guess. I didn’t see heaving throngs of spectators yesterday on TV.

This year’s parade was plagued with bad publicity. Some Irish groups got upset because the MTA banned alcohol from suburban transit lines. They claim the MTA is targeting and discriminating against Irish. Truthfully, maybe they should ban alcohol on all holidays, to be fair. Seems to me, though, folks should have no trouble getting their drink on well before or well after riding that train.

The GLBT community has long been upset because we are excluded from being publicly gay in the parade. It’s a long-standing struggle. Irish-American lesbian City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has boycotted the parade for this very reason, opting instead to march with the Irish in Dublin at their invitation.

Governor Eliot Spitzer wasn’t there today, either. He was upstate in Rochester, the first time in 12 years a New York governor wasn’t in Manhattan on this day. Some have seen this as a slight against parade organizers. Some have seen this as quiet opposition to the gay ban. (I doubt this. Spitzer doesn’t seem to do much quietly.)

The latest controversy this year involves a dispute between parade organizers and the FDNY. The firefighters were moved from the front of the march back about 35 spots as apparent punishment for an episode last year. Apparently, a contingent of New Orleans firefighters who joined in the festivities to thank New York for its support after Hurricane Katrina held things up a bit and threw the parade a half hour off schedule. Oh, and Committee President John Dunleavy also said that the firemen are usually drunk in the parade anyway, so nyaa nyaa!

It seems like everyone’s fighting about this parade. Only a non-native New Yorker such as myself would dare ask: Is it even worth it?


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