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It’s time to get your Irish up

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Alas, it had to happen. The one Irishman without a sense of humor crawled out of his personal bog of self-regard and registered his disapproval of an athletic mascot. How noble, how original.

Well, let me establish my bona fides too: I am Irish-American, a citizen of this great country and Ireland, by virtue of my parents’ birth. Growing up in Brooklyn as a child of the urban working class, I can state to the supercilious Richards that the moniker “Fighting Irish” represents more than a slur. It represents a measure of pride in what William Butler Yeats called the “indomitable Irishry.”

It also represents the survival of a people who were relegated to the dustbin of history by their colonial masters. And finally, it represents an ironical appreciation of the role history forced upon us.

When G.K. Chesterton wrote his masterful aesthetic biography of George Bernard Shaw he attributed certain characteristics to Mr. Shaw that proved his status as an Irishman. Indeed, Shaw was a friend of Chesterton and reveled in the portrait. One of these characteristics was a ferocity of intention and a clarity of result. As the great Gilbert Keith wrote:

“This is probably why the Irishman succeeds in such professions as require a certain crystalline realism, especially about results. Such professions are the soldier and the lawyer; these give ample opportunity for crimes, but not much for mere illusions. If you have composed a bad opera you may persuade yourself that it is a good one; if you have carved a bad statue you can think yourself better than Michelangelo. But if you have lost a battle you cannot believe you have won it; if your client is hanged you cannot pretend that you got him off.”

So, Richards, earn your kudos elsewhere. You do not understand what it means to be Irish. I rest confident in the knowledge that if this letter upsets you, then I have proven my point.

Michael Ryanclass of 1975March 24