Gatemouth Gets His Irish Up
I’d like to thank the current Czar of Russia for making my job here a lot easier by proving the point that any celebration of nationalism is inherently politically, which makes discussions of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade so much easier by shoveling off from the conversation a large layer of bovine-related excrement.
Anyway, in “Bonfire of the Vanities,” Tom Wolfe wrote about the phenomena of some Jews being Irish wannabees, and I must cop to a guilty plea on that one. As someone who fancies Michael Collins a hero (once I outgrew Paul O’Dwyer) and has long considered himself an honorary Irishman, I rise here on a point of personal privilege.
While I support the Mayor's decision to boycott the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, I must disagree with those hailing his courage for not marching--the number of Irish voters in the City who might be willing to vote for DeBlasio, but who care enough about this matter to vote for him only if he marched, could be fit in a phone booth (if we still had them), with room left for Chris Christie. Maybe, given their bases, Bloomie and Rudy needed to do this, but for DeBlasio the advantage is with the side he took.
Those calling the Mayor anti-Catholic need to get a grip on reality. No one complained when Tony Avella walked out of a Muslim parade when he did not like the messages he saw expressed there (wonder what would happen if he did it today). And, incidentally, Irish does not necessarily = Catholic, as Chaim Herzog, Robert Briscoe, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde (wonder what banner he'd carry) and Parnell could tell you.
In fact, the NYC St. Patrick’s Parade was originally founded by Protestants, and frankly, I cannot with a straight face even consider the fictitious assertion that this holiday, celebrated universally in Ireland by all religions (with parades that include LGTB groups marching with banners and floats), and named for a “saint” whose existence and accomplishments the Catholic Church's own scholars have questioned (Patrick was never canonized), is some sort of a religious event because it contains the word “Saint.” By that measure, Valentine's Day is also a religious celebration and San Francisco is a holy city.
If this is a holy day of obligation, then green beer and soda bread are the blood and body of Christ.
This is a nationalist holiday; usually, nations whose nationalism has been the subject of recent controversy have been glad to accept their support where they can find it. Israel is so happy to accept LGTB support that its efforts to do so have acquired a sarcastic name (“Pinkwashing”).
And a parade based upon nationalism, especially semi-controversial nationalism, is definitionally a political parade.
Further, the history of NYC’s parade, and who has, in the not so distance past, been allowed, depending upon the year, been allowed to send which message concerning Ireland, among other matters , has been so fraught and contentious, that any protests that LGTB groups and their allies are trying to bring politics where it has never before been allowed is so preposterous that Willie Joe Cunningham is probably spinning in his grave trying to do the Riverdance.
So let’s be clear; the decision to ban gay groups from using a banner is a "political" decision. Thus, its organizers should expect a political response.
Though the parade is ostensibly not endorsing discrimination, one must wonder if, after all these years, some people aren’t trying to send a message. In fact, I would argue that they went out of their way to send a message, since the path of least resistance would be to allow any pro-Irish group to march.
Despite their protestations, the organizers of a parade celebrating one of the world’s most in your face examples of nationalism have certainly not banned all political messages, nor should they. They have the right to speech, and their banning of certain messages is a political message.
The Mayor has a similar right to his speech, and the right to send his own message.
Anyway, the Mayor also stood up for speech---he allowed uniformed service members to march in uniform--something he was probably constitutionally allowed to prevent if he wanted to. He could not prevent the marching, but the ability to march in a City uniform is not a right; there is no unlimited right to use the uniform off-duty--in fact, its use is already quite restricted (though I suppose there might arguably be a viewpoint discrimination argument in this case).
I generally think the cure for bad speech is more speech and don't like to restrict free expression except in limited circumstances where it proves necessary, so I’m glad the Mayor restrained himself from using all the power available to him (though I might feel be persuaded to feel differently if the organizers weren’t so strenuously denying the message they were sending).
Contrast the Mayor’s position with Dave Dinkins, who tried to deny the parade permit based on the group's message and give it to someone with a message he liked better.
If you could do that, you could make them allow Union Jacks.
Then Dinkins further compounded his original error by bending over backwards the other way (perhaps not the best choice of words), and trying to ban demonstrations at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. His only consistency was his willingness to violate everyone’s right to free speech.
Honestly, though, isn’t it time to invite everyone to settle this over a few Guinnesses and seek out some common sod? Lord knows, even Bill Donovan couldn’t object to a banner saying “Bugger the Brits.”