Monday, September 1, 2014

A Better Way to Celebrate Saint Patrick's Day

Originally Published on on March 16th,2012
That video helped me remember how I spent St, Patrick’s Day when I was in high school.  With the Regiment.  The Xavier High School Regiment of theJunior Reserve Officers Training Corps.  It was a little different.  All the students were in the Regiment and we all wore the blue uniform with the white stripe on the pant leg, that was loosely based on the US Army Infantry uniform of 1847, the year the school was founded.  As in the video, there was also a band and a drill team carrying rifles then.  Long before my time, that band was led by Cadet Captain Antonin Scalia.  I couldn’t find video that far back, but I’m pretty sure there were dinosaurs instead of horses in the parade back then.
I never marched in the parade myself.  Those rifles and those band instruments.  Somebody had to show up early in the morning and load them onto a truck on loan from the Army, ride to the kickoff point of the parade and unload and then ride to the end of the parade (around 86th street if I recall correctly) to load them back up again and back to the school.  That would be the Regimental Supply Corps.  My senior year, the Supply Corps cadet officers all marched, leaving the cadet First Sergeant in charge.  That would be me.  Also consistent with St. Patrick’s Day tradition, I used my great authority to change out of my uniform in the truck and let the juniors supervise the unloading back at the school, so that I could join in the end of parade festivities.  The drinking age in New York was eighteen.  So I go drunk.
Since then, I have come to believe that the association between Irish heritage and alcohol abuse is quite unfortunate.  There has got to be a better way to commemorate the heritage and I believe that I have found it.  When I visited Ireland, one of the things that struck me at the various historic sites was how often they mentioned the Famine.  On the 1916 walking tour in Dublin, the guide starts off by saying that if you want to understand  the battle in the city in 1916, you have to understand the Famine. It was puzzling.  The Famine was from 1845 to 1851 and they hadn’t gotten over it. 
The reason they hadn’t gotten over it was that they haven’t gotten over it.  Ireland lost roughly 25% of its population in that short period.  Thanks to high rates of emigration afterwards, it has still not recovered to its pre-Famine population of 8 million.  The diaspora has increased and multiplied though.  Something like 70 million people world wide claim Irish descent.  Presumably, most of them are descended, at least in part, from famine refugees.  In the 1990′s President Mary Robinson started a tradition of leaving a light on in the president’s home for them:
At my inauguration I spoke of the seventy million people worldwide who can claim Irish descent. I also committed my Presidency to cherishing them – even though at the time I was thinking of doing so in a purely symbolic way. Nevertheless the simple emblem of a light in the window, for me, and I hope for them, signifies the inextinguishable nature of our love and remembrance on this island those who leave it behind.
There has to be something better than drinking to excess to do on a holiday to commemorate a heritage like that, which is why I started San Patricios Against Hunger.  I know if you clicked the link you will see that the last facebook reorganization devastated the membership, which was not ever very large.  That is not what is important.  What is important is what you should do on St. Patrick’s Day instead of drinking to excess.  Research hunger fighting charities and pick one or more and make a donation.  Then tell somebody else about the idea.  If you don’t want to do your own research, here are two to choose from – Jeremiah’s Inn in Worcester, Mass runs a social model recovery program and a neighborhood food pantry and Community Harvest Project in Grafton, Mass runs a volunteer farm all of the produce of which goes to the Worcester County Food Bank.  After you have mailed your check or checks or made your on-line donation, if you are not in recovery, you can have a beer.  One.  If you must.
About The Name
At least one person has suggested that naming the “organization” after aMexican battalion that contained a lot of Irish deserters from the US Army was a bad idea.  Well so maybe was the Mexican War.  That was the war that Henry David Thoreau was protesting when he spent the night in jail that inspired On The Duty of Civil Disobedience.  Margaret Fuller, America’s first foreign correspondent wrote from Europe:
Then there is this horrible cancer of slavery and the wicked war that has grown out of it. I listen to the same arguments against the emancipation of Italy that are used against the emancipation of our blacks; the same arguments for the spoilation of Poland, as for the conquest of Mexico.  I find the cause of tyranny and wrong everywhere the same and lo! my country! the darkest offender because with the least excuse.
Even a West Point graduate, who would later wear four stars and go on to serve as Commander in Chief thought the war was unjust:
Generally the officers of the army were indifferent whether the annexation [of Texas] was consummated or not; but not so all of them. For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.

So I think I will stick with the name.
You can follow me on twitter @peterreillycpa.

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