Susan Millar DuMars
|photo from irishcentral.com|
I've lived in Ireland for eighteen years, and in that time I've only heard the National Anthem perhaps a half dozen times. I'm not too sure how it goes. Whereas a person who'd lived in the States for two decades would be able to sing The Star Spangled Banner in their sleep. I don't often see the Tricolour, yet the Union Jack gets recycled continuously, in high and low fashion, in art and in tea towels. A lot of Irish people can't speak Irish, and I'm not sensing a groundswell of support for changing that fact. I'm embarrassed that I still can't speak it -- yet know that, had I been living in France for the past eighteen years, I'd damn sure be fluid in French by now.
The majority of Irish politicians are not good orators. They stumble and mutter and shuffle their feet and look down at their notes. The majority of Irish people I've met stumble and mutter and stare at their shoes when asked what's great about their country. They manage a joke about rain or getting drunk.
There is a deep sense of hurt and shame among the Irish people over the Magdalene Laundries and industrial schools. This is an utterly human reaction; but only constructive if it occurs in a context of righting wrongs, learning to lift up our most vulnerable citizens today, rather than only weeping about what happened yesterday.
The Catholic Church has taught the Irish that pride is a sin. But it isn't -- at least, it shouldn't be. Pride is part of accepting ourselves. Pride need not be blind nor arrogant. It can be a soft thing, a warm urge to care for yourself and all around you because you place a value on everyone and thing on this tiny, beautiful island.
I could live anywhere in the US or the EU, and I choose to live in Ireland. Ireland's workers rose, and modern strikes and the gains of the left tell us the workers are rising again. Irish women fought, and today -- for their rights, their children and the integrity of their bodies -- Irish women are fighting still. Ireland's authors and balladeers bewitch the globe. I'm privileged to teach young Irish adults; their ingenuity, creativity and passion are the equal of students anywhere. Ireland embraces strangers. Last year, in the gay marriage referendum, Ireland embraced love.
Ireland is not the land of the pint glass and the crucifix. Ireland, my Ireland, is the soul of the world.
If only it knew.
Ireland, my friend; stand up.