Screw Saint Patrick's Day, This Is America

Suppose we were living in a culture rife with anti-Irish sentiment (as American culture once was not so long ago). Further suppose New York recently passed an ordinance making it much more difficult for Irish to enter the country (legally or illegally), harder for those who look Irish to find work, and easier for police to harass those who look Irish.

Along comes Saint Patrick's Day, and instead of wearing the traditional green and shamrock, or choosing not to celebrate at all, some people who don't normally display such symbols decide to wear t-shirts and bandannas emblazoned with American flags, in an obvious attempt to respond negatively to the wearing of green and shamrock.

Would Eugene Volokh agree with the following?

Even if the students wore American flag garb only on Saint Patrick's Day, I take it that the message was “you want to stress your Irish heritage, and we want to stress our American heritage” or at most “we don’t entirely approve of your stressing your ethnic heritage, since we should all think of ourselves as Americans.” This might convey some disagreement, but it hardly strikes me as discourteous; and to the extent that it’s a “rebuke,” it’s the sort of message that people are entitled — not just as a matter of law, but also of good manners — to send. Courtesy doesn’t require absence of disagreement. It requires that the disagreement not be framed in a rude way, and I don’t think there’s anything rude in the messages that I infer the clothes were trying to send.

Is it good manners for your wardrobe to scream "AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!" on Saint Patrick's Day? Or do we tend to view people who make these kind of fashion choices as juvenile, ignorant, and rude?

Another ethnic group, which immigrated to America and experienced discrimination, has a word for this kind of behavior: Chutzpah.


The Mortar of Assimilation (1889) - Only the Irish immigrant is causing trouble.

Share this

I think the ridicule should

I think the ridicule should be reserved for people who are offended by the colors other people choose to wear.

Much of the narrative about

Much of the narrative about the discrimination the Irish faced was made up by the Irish themselves. They actually discriminated against non-Irish (particularly blacks), often in a violent manner. Since I am Irish-American, I'm allowed to say the following: fuck the Irish. They have nothing to be proud of. It is an entirely open question whether the previous inhabitants of the country benefited from letting in people like my ancestors.

I haven't heard much about mistreatment of Jewish immigrants in America. Usually it was back home that sort of stuff went on. I think there were actually more Italians lynched in the U.S than Jews (Louis Frank is the only one I can think of).

Is lynching the only form of

Is lynching the only form of mistreatment you can think of? There are lesser degrees of mistreatment than murder.

I like how the Jensen piece concedes a large deal of anti-Irish discrimination while simultaneously trying to minimize it. The "Myth" may be in the exaggeration of details, and the motives for self-victimization explain why this myth is sustained, but I don't see how that discredits the point of this post: That the Irish were discriminated against in the U.S., much like other immigrant ethnic groups in the past and much like Mexicans today.

Lynching is a pretty famous

Lynching is a pretty famous form of mob violence in America, even endorsed by LBJ at one time. Jews had also been subjected to pogroms in a great many places and that served as a motivation for many of them to come to America around the turn of the century. Italians are not known for being subjected to that and so I found the contrast surprising.

People do sometimes talk about how quotas were instituted to reduce the number of Jews at many colleges. They do the same thing to Asians today for the same reason, except liberals approve of it now. I think you agree with me that as injustices go, affirmative action is quite minor.

Skimming Jensen's piece again I noticed the remark about fears regarding Irish involvement in politics. Those fears had foundation, due to what Ed Glaeser named "the Curley effect".

Why am I writing this? Bryan Caplan likes to talk of 19th century American immigration as "the greatest anti-poverty program the world has ever seen". It was a great opportunity that Americans permitted these immigrants, but is there any gratitude for that? No, instead the Irish compete for victimization status by peddling myths like the above. I don't think my ancestors "deserved" to come here, it was the sort of unmerited good fortune that religious folks call "grace". It's unpopular to identify as an "old American", which is how the official numbers of Irish have so greatly expanded. I say they've gotten a bad rap and have few people to stick up for them in the case of such myths, and if Jude Wanniski can do so for Saddam then I can do so for a bunch of dead Americans.

The title is bizarre. I

The title is bizarre. I understand that the blog entry imagines a fantasy world. However, this doesn't make it into the title. St. Patrick's day is a day celebrated, if ever so slightly (by wearing green, thereby declaring partisan allegiance to the Irish Catholics, though of course hardly anybody realizes this) across the US. I live in the Boston area, where St. Patrick's day is celebrated a bit more extensively than that.

In any case, what strikes me as bizarre is that St. Patrick's day is often celebrated with both the Irish and the US flag, and the latter flag does not mean, "Screw St. Patrick's Day". If you want proof you can google it yourself, something like "patrick day flag" (without quotes). Not all of the images, but several of them display the US and Irish flag side by side (sometimes the current flag with the napolitan ice cream design, sometimes the older green flag with the harp).

If May 5 were celebrated on the model of St. Patrick's Day, then many would be prominently displaying the US and Mexico flag side by side. The girl with the Mexico flag painted on one cheek would likely have the US flag painted on the other. Sight unseen that's what I would have expected of a May 5 celebration.

In fact, this is a common and, I think, standard and normal way to celebrate foreign holidays in the US. Aside from widely-known holidays such as St. Patrick's Day, I know that the public US gatherings I have been in which celebrate Paraguay display the Paraguay and US flag side by side.

As for the meaning of the presence of the US flag, I think it has a lot of potential meanings, along the lines of, "we love Ireland/Paraguay/whatever, but of course we love the US too since it is after all where we have chosen to live, and we don't think there is any contradiction."

That forming the background, something very odd and probably not very healthy seems to be happening in the Mexican community in the SF Bay Area. I was aware that the community is heavily Hispanic and that the Hispanics have not integrated well into the surrounding community. My cousin moved next door to Morgan Hill (the scene of the flag incident) several years ago but for years she was slow in picking up the English language, because she didn't have to. This social isolation helps to explain the unusual, hostile attitude toward the American flag. The social isolation is a product of Hispanic demographic success: if Hispanics didn't make up a large fraction of the local community then they wouldn't be able to go through an entire day barely interacting with non-Hispanics.

California is heavily Hispanic. If you go to California and listen carefully to blond-haired blue-eyed Californians speak, you should notice a trace of a Spanish accent. Some areas of California are more heavily Hispanic and the area around San Jose (which is where Morgan Hill is located) is especially Hispanic.

Given that the boys who wore the US flag were greeted with hostility by Hispanic students, I can only presume that a similar fate would meet Hispanics who opted to display the US and Mexico flags side by side as is the norm (generally speaking). It is presumably not safe for a Hispanic celebrating Cinco de Mayo in the Morgan Hill area by displaying the two flags side by side on the model of the Boston Irish celebrating St. Patrick's Day. There is evidence for this: people are not identical, everyone has his own interpretation, and so if it were really a matter of individual taste whether a person wore just the Mexican flag or both flags, then we would see at least some Hispanics with both flags. We would see them because that would be an interesting data point that the journalists would pick up on. They would want to take pictures of this. The absence of pictures of Hispanics displaying both flags, therefore, is telling.

If you've been following the news, you may have read that the school administration gave concern for safety as their reason. In plain English, this means they were worried that Mexican thugs would beat up students displaying the American flag. If nationalistic Mexican thugs are a problem in the Morgan Hill area, that would help to explain both the actions of the Administration, and the uniformity of the Hispanic community in not displaying both flags on 5 May.

Something that undercuts your

Something that undercuts your story: some of the kids with the American symbolism at the school on Cinco de Mayo were themselves Hispanic. That could undercut Micha's story as well though.

You need to connect the dots

You need to connect the dots a bit more than that. I was already aware the two of the boys were themselves reportedly Hispanic. Several commenters on other blogs (such as Volokh) mentioned this, and in the articles that I read one of the mothers pointed it out about her son. I wrote what I wrote in awareness of these facts, so it would seem that I am not connecting the dots that you're connecting.

It's good to think outside the box, but...

It is completely unreasonable to demand that Americans refrain from wearing patriotic clothing on any day that they please. As negative responses go, wearing clothing depicting or inspired by the American flag (in America) is a very mild one, and I don't really see a reason not to tolerate it. Your substitution of Irish for Mexican doesn't change Volokh's argument, and I still agree with it.

Even if you think that the students were somewhat rude, could you at least admit that the students should not have been sent home?

suppose New York recently

suppose New York recently passed an ordinance making it much more difficult for Irish to enter the country (legally or illegally), harder for those who look Irish to find work, and easier for police to harass those who look Irish.

Ha ha.

On a more serious note, the Arizona law does not make it more difficult for anybody to enter the country legally. It does not make it harder for anybody to find work. And it does not allow the police to "harass" anybody on account of their looks.

Other than those minor details, great analogy!

And it does not allow the

And it does not allow the police to "harass" anybody on account of their looks.

YEAH! the police don't need no damn rules to harass anyone, they do it regardless of what the law says.

Along comes Saint Patrick's

Along comes Saint Patrick's Day, and instead of wearing the traditional green and shamrock, or choosing not to celebrate at all, some people who don't normally display such symbols decide to wear t-shirts and bandannas emblazoned with American flags, in an obvious attempt to respond negatively to the wearing of green and shamrock.

Indeed. Check out these trouble-makers at the NYC Saint Patricks day parade.

http://tinyurl.com/2b9b285

You beat me to it. You and Constant

One can only wonder where Micha has been hiding his head on St. Patricks day. I imagine somewhere the sun doesn't shine since US flags are quite common at parades on that occasion.