Thursday 08 March 2018
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The best and worst thing about being an American is that we have no goddamn idea who we are.
Some of us identify purely as American. Chanting ‘U-S-A!’ at the least opportune time, getting American flags and bald eagles tattooed on our bodies, and reciting statistics about America’s obscene number of Olympic medals (more than double our closest competitor, by the way).
Others of us look to our ancestry in an attempt to understand who we are. The majority of Bostonians would rather have a shamrock tattooed than a bald eagle, and for many families Cinco de Mayo celebrations and Paczki doughnuts for Fat Tuesday are just as much a part of their culture as fireworks on the fourth of July and Thanksgiving Day turkey.
The lines between identifying as an American and identifying as your genetic makeup blur annually for the entire country in March during the why-is-this-a-holiday-again? season of Saint Patrick’s Day.
Americans love cultural stereotypes. We’re simply too far away from most other countries to ever prove ourselves wrong. Dumbing down a culture in order to trick ourselves into believing that we know what that culture is has gotten us through the past few hundred years, and by god, we’re not likely to stop anytime soon. This is why I believed all French people were mimes until I was 19 years old and it’s why every St Patrick’s Day we go out of our way to celebrate everything we think we know about the Irish. Here’s what I’ve learned in my American St Patrick’s Day education.
Ireland has one beer and one whiskey. The beer is Guinness and the whiskey is Jameson. This is all that Irish people drink and they drink it in quantities that Americans can’t even begin to understand. More often than not, this makes their noses red and can cause their flat caps to become askew. Occasionally it causes the Irish to burst out in limerick, at which all Irish people are tremendously skilled. With their year-round consumption of Guinness and Jameson, quite a few of them treat their families poorly, but are luckily forgiven every Sunday after Mass.
Leprechauns are real and they come out once a year on St Patrick’s Day to grant wishes, hide gold, and / or give coupons to people (depending on the part of town you’re in). Leprechauns are basically either God or Santa Claus, but with ginger hair, green shorts, and the smells of booze in their mouth and cigarette smoke in their beard. From my experience leprechauns spend most of their St Patrick’s Day hitting on your wife’s friend, even when she’s clearly uninterested and we’re just trying to have a nice conversation.
Shamrocks are everywhere. They are to the Irish what the Tommy Hilfiger logo was to Americans in 1996. All Irish people walk around with shamrocks printed on their shirts, hats, belts, and socks. Shamrocks are in insurance advertising, on bus stops, and printed on bedsheets and they somehow bring luck to the people of Ireland. This luck is so powerful that the Irish people clearly worship this plant, praying to it and the leprechaun gods to keep their nation safe.
In order to make America closely resemble Ireland every 17 March, we must make everything as green as humanly possible. If we dye our beer green and our beards green and we wear green socks and dress our babies in green sleepsuits and we dye rivers and fountains green (yeah, we really do that), when we wake up on St Patrick’s Day, we’ll walk outside and all together exclaim “Whoa! Look at how green everyone and everything is! Where are we? Ireland?” Because in Ireland, it’s not just the rolling hills of County Kerry that are emerald green, it’s the entire damn nation. Covered from head to toe, Northern and Republic of, in Ireland every building and sidewalk and garbage truck is the greenest it can be. I guess it must be a slightly different shade than the shamrocks.
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