And on this most Irish of days, let us ask:
What does it mean to be Irish-American? Anything?
Why do Americans invariably describe ourselves as ____ American? (Do they do this in other countries? I would imagine it depends on how much immigration is a feature of life.)
In America, we tend to consider ourselves "children of immigrants"--since the vast majority of us are. Jessica Aloe writes:
Are you a hyphenated American? If so, would you give up your modifier?
One of the topics we discussed outside the pub in Ballintoy [Ireland] was the tendency that Americans seem to have to describe themselves as [insert ethnicity here]-Americans. Growing up in New York, this was perfectly natural to me. I have described myself like that. Everyone described him or herself like that, even when it seemed like they were grasping at straws.
A friend of mine, whose roots are in Minnesota, bought a Norwegian phrasebook when we were younger because her great-great-great grandparents had hailed from there. In middle school, we were given an assignment to write a fake journal pretending we were travelling through Ellis Island as the nationality of our family. Nobody had trouble with it.
These two men thought it was ridiculous. They found it annoying, and even condescending when people came to their homes and described themselves as originating from there. So I asked them how I should describe myself. In my case, I have a European citizenship, I've spent summers there, and have close family there. Regardless of this, they answered, I was simply, "American." There was no other possibility for them.
Should everyone who is born in America describe himself or herself as solely American? Probably not. And you do have to take into account the attitudes towards immigrants in countries like Northern Ireland that, unlike the United States, attract very little immigration. It's a cultural difference, but one that I would have never become aware of had I not taken that risk.
Why is it important to you, to say what kind of American you are?
I find that I honestly can't say why, except that it was drilled into me, to remember: "No Irish Need Apply"..."No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs"(the sign later immortalized as the title of John Lydon's autobiography).
Another possible answer: I find that remembering which people I came from, keeps me from trying to be someone else.
Here on Octogalore's appearance thread (about Michelle Obama's arms!), I mentioned (and linked to) my signature Irish arms. Knowing that my people had bulbous Bill Clintonesque noses and fleshy bodies, comforts me greatly, since I have them too. I am short and stout, and I have never believed I could look like a supermodel. I am grateful for the lesson in common sense that Irish identity gave me. Now: If only I'd listened to the warnings about DRINKING! :P
And I guess this is as good a place as any to announce: I haven't had a drink of alcohol in 27 years. (Am I OLD or what?) So, yall have some green beer on me today, okay?
Have a happy St Patrick's Day!
Give Ireland back to the Irish - Paul McCartney & Wings