There’s a strange moment in childhood on this Island where you must learn that you are Irish. I knew it in my own life and got to witness its cycle again in my sister fifteen years younger.
“Is Ireland in America?” she asked me, what a bloody question. She in her own time somehow discovered the Simpsons despite it not having the universal presence it held when I was a child. Before she could understand half the jokes and references she buried herself in its massive backlog. Understanding on some strange level how it could fill her in on so much of the humour and the knowledge of the adult world around her. She doesn’t have a single Irish influence in her life beyond the people that occupy rooms with her.
This is a significant leap from my time, my time when satellite TV was near unheard of and my mornings were filled with RTÉ2. Where Dustin the Turkey was a bigger presence in my life than Mickey Mouse. That’s gone away with. My little sister has probably never watched an Irish show in her life. Her television was always American and British. And for the last couple of years as her fingers and mind became capable enough to operate iPhones and tablets, she spends most of her time watching Americans on Youtube, whose voices have become less foreign to her than the people in her own city.
The people around her for that matter are significantly less aboriginal than were around me. Her best friends from school being from Poland and the Middle East. Often it feels like as much of a melting pot as New York.
“Is Ireland in America?” Who am to say no to that anymore?
The irony is stricken true when we see “the Yanks” come throttling through the city. Big wide open smiles, faces towing in all the wrong directions. We laugh at their sentimentality, how naive they are to have fancies for Ireland, as they look to connect with their “heritage”. You won’t find your Finn MacCool here. No nor will you hear much Gaelic after the robot on the bus.
They revolt us to the point where we find their mythic Ireland to be a sad joke. It has no possession to us. What we take pride in now is what they can’t put their hands on. To the bonfire goes the big myths, the Irish dancing, the dream of a United Ireland. Hell throw Bono on too. Throw all of Christianity on it. Christ is a colonial colloquialism now.
We have Taytos and Dutch Gold what else do we need to spend our lives on.
For who is this Ireland left for?
In my father’s Day, before the Dells and the Googles moved in and Dublin was a grey truncheoned ruin where the Georgian flats were torn down in rows and the British embassy burned. America was a magic word. He and his friends survived through their years of troubles and heroin with a faith in another world they witnessed in the music and the movies of Manhattan. They hadn’t a fit of pride for Charlie Haughey’s Republic or the jihad of the Provos and especially not in the Brothers who wore black robes and used to beat them at best.
Somewhere out there was a land where people cherished having no man decide who you were but yourself. Where the liberty and dignity that we once died for is no joke. Where finding where you came from in the world is not an unserious concern. Worth going on a pilgrimage across the Atlantic for.
But we, we have nothing to find out. Especially not our generation. This ironic witty generation that knew the last gasp of the Ireland that was, before it was buried by choice. The Ireland where we had to say our hail Mary before yard and our Father before going home. My sister wasn’t given a choice really. The wide world was there waiting for her. We made our exit. We took our confirmation money but we had not said a prayer since. We know better now don’t we. We have our pills to keep hell away and we know scientifically when a baby gets a soul. We know we can have love cheap and satisfaction without shame. We have our jokes to quiet out the night.