Saved St. Patrick

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Today was an antidote that I needed to undo all of the St. Pats’ parades where I was called Nigger, or chased, or had green bottles (Heiniken, Ballentine Ale) tossed at me. I am a refugee from St. Pats parades. I used to think I didn’t like Irish people, but those were actually white working class Americans who were pitted against me and mine by wealthier grandees of Massachusetts. I remember that I met a black grad student in Cali who had spent some time in Ireland. He sang its praises, and I was after my hazing in Boston, very skeptical. Living in Sunnyside with so many great Irish people had mostly erased my youthful Celt-o-phobia. This is the final straw, redemption for the kelly sod of San Patricio. He chased the snakes out of THIS parade, anyway.

An Illustration of what I’m talking about was in the post today: http://www.nypost.com/seven/03062007/news/regionalnews/the_fighting_irish_regionalnews_tom_liddy.htm I just want to point out that “nobody was arrested.” Were this in a non-white environment, you can bet all involved would be “in the system:”  white privilege! Keep checking back for St. Pat’s updates.

So today was the St. Pat’s for all parade in Sunnyside, NY. Like any St. Pat’s parade their were politicians glazing themselves (kelly) green to pander to the Irish constituency. But this one, ah this Saint Patrick’s Day parade, is something completely different. The girls, Mason’s sick, got me to go out to see “SUDS” (Sunnyside United Dog Society), and though it was cold, we hung out for the hour and half that it took for the parade to start while the politicians congratulated themselves. The reason this parade exists, and I should have gotten right to this, is because the Ancient order of Hibernians (Ancient order of moral hibernators?) refuses to let gays march in their parade. So all the people who don’t think there is anything wrong with accepting people for who they are, started their own parade.

I love the whole peace-centric, neighborhood feel of this parade. There were two families Bangladeshi families who had recently been heckled out of a residents meeting by well meaning native borns because their opinions collided. So seeing the hijabed mothers and bearded fathers holding up signs about preservation vs. landmarking so that the mayor (he came) could see, was refreshing.

There were a dozen or so costumed characters, of which only a moth-eaten thrift-store car-bear was recognizable. There was a decidedly punk edge to these “animals” and they were all really fun and nice to everyone. They went well with the paper mache Chinese dragons and African Masks invited by PS199Q that we fell in with. SO I marched in vague anonymity, while my daughters were as proud as any marcher in the parade.

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This is the anti-war parade. I saw one banner that had the Berrigan Brothers (of pentagon papers fame) as famous Irish American peace makers. There was one that touted Mother Jones’s Irish ancestry. There was a banner that had St.Pat himself with a quote that said something to the effect that “if you kill, you are no better than them.”

There was a group of Irish Dancers from a public school up in the Bronx who was mostly Black and Latino. Their teacher, a woman from Ireland had them is great shape to do a craicking good job, clicking and clogging in their celtic costumes and tap shoes. They got funding to go to Ireland for a competition from some group or another.

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Seeing the gay people braving the cold, the PFLAG people supporting them, the families and supporters out for the little Sunnyside Parade, made me feel good about the world.

This parade is the antidote to the St.Pat of green glass around ethanol of various strengths. This is a different spirit of St. Pat, one of tolerance. This is a release of st.pat from the constellation of co-opted holidays: 5 de Mayo, St. Pat, 4 de Julio, etc: Drinking days. When the reason for the holiday in the first place is drowned like a sack-full of puppies in a river of “ethnic hooch.”

There were Mexican dancers there swirling in their costumes to a boom box full of corridos. “AHHH-HAAA” would come the plaintive cry from one or another of themen. The dancers with skirts all had white patten leather high healed boots. None of them were 15. The whole thing was wonderfully innocent.

There were two bands there. 1st was the Sunnyside Drum and Bugle corps. I love them their garish white and purple costumes with Daktari-type hats. Heavy on the drums and and glockenschpeils, a true youth band in song selection and energy. The kids love the uniforms and the majorettes were as crisp as they were young.

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The other band is the anarchist marching band. These are a bunch of ex-band-nerds who wear bright green thrift-store band costumes (matching only in color), completely punked out. There were two electric banjos (amps in backpacks) and very active post-punk majorettes doing something between vogueing and marching. Their energy was a W.H.O. level 3 contagion. It riled up the fundamentalist Christians that came out to scorn us in the name of Jesus to an absolutely frothy rabid anger. This is the second year that I’ve been to the parade and I’m beginning to recognize some of the more colorful “haters.”

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3 responses to “Saved St. Patrick

  1. Stafford,
    I have been collecting all of your wonderful web work, both writing and photographs. I feel that I may simply be too old of a luddite to ever have such things for my own, but I certainly do enjoy reading the “younger” generations ruminations on various web formats. So, to your blog. St. Patrick’s Day has always befuddled me. When I first moved to New York, and was rather terrified by the amount of public drunkenness that flourished on that day, I was even more shocked to find out that the cops were drunk as well. Now, being drunk certainly was not an issue for me, but the public, vulgar get-down-and-be-rude-to-everyone-in-the-street kind of St. Patty’s “fun” really turned me off. Now that I am taking Brian Gallagher’s course Irish Culture and Literature, I am getting a much better sense of how a very oppressed culture sometimes returns back to mythological warrior times to define itself: read “I can drink more than you can drink.” The Hibernian homophobia of course does not help. For christ’s sake, if the mother country allows queers to march in its St. Patrick’s Day parade, what is wrong with the colonies?

  2. I think that the reason that the Yankee Hibernians are so stiff and rigid is beacuse they are looking over their shoulder at the emerald isle, feeling insecure. As Fanon said, the tiger does not have to sing his “tigretude” (why do we sing negritude?). The Irish, from europe, are not ashamed of, nor do they feel insecure about, their irishness, while the Irish-American, like any hyphenated identity, lives in the hypen: neither fish nor fowl.

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