A slur upon the Irish on St. Patrick's Day?
St. Patrick's Day has collided with America's grievance-mongering movement -- and in Iowa of all places.
Now, besides looking forward to another beer-addled St. Patrick's Day, many Iowans are debating whether a pub and eatery in Davenport insulted the Irish with a light-hearted promotion depicting them as hard drinkers.
John M. Dooley, a Davenport resident who is fiercely proud of his Irish heritage, claims the popular Circle Tap pub and eatery went too far -- and he vented his outrage in an Op-Ed published Friday in the Quad-City Times, a local newspaper. His article is attracting wide attention, and the overwhelming number of readers -- including those of Irish heritage - are telling Dooley to lighten up in the paper's comments section.
At issue: A T-shirt being sold by the pub, in the run-up to St. Patrick's Day, that's emblazoned with an "alcohol-detection meter" against a green background. The meter displays a needle and various levels of inebriation: sober, buzzed, drunk, blitzed -- and Irish. And befitting St. Patrick's Day, the needle falls squarely upon "Irish" (the highest level of drunkenness).
Dooley contends the implied stereotype --that the Irish are hard drinkers -- is highly offensive. Even worse, he wrote, the T-shirt is part of a string of historical outrages against the Irish.
"My first thought at seeing the shirt was of my immediate family and my ancestors. How could someone - I presume ignorant of the bitter story of the Irish being exiled from their homes and homeland, hungry and diseased - once again use a wicked, stunningly incorrect stereotype to make money?"
"Some people of Irish ancestry might not know much about their ancestors and benignly accept the caricatures. If more people knew that a great-great-grandparent was stuffed into an over-loaded ship in the stench of the hold, with no sanitary facilities and only the food he or she brought, they might take a different view of simplistic, cruel depictions spread over T-shirts."
"I am defending my ancestors and will give no quarter. Wouldn't anyone of us do the same? The regimental motto of the Irish Brigade of Civil War fame is "Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked"; words that apply as much today as they did 150 years ago."
All in all, it's the sort of chest-thumping victimization talk that one rarely finds among Americans of European heritage (Balkans excluded). Rather, it's typical of some members of groups -- typically those with high levels of underachievement -- who are highly adept at playing the victimization card.
Circle Tap owner Debra Lundgren shot back with a diplomatic rejoinder: "Every year the Circle Tap offers a St. Patrick's celebration in good faith, good fun and with a light heart. We invite everyone to join us for a responsible good time."
She has the support of an overwhelmingly number of readers offering up comments. In the paper's online comments section, many readers -- including some identifying themselves as having Irish ancestry -- had a singular message for Dooley: lighten up. Some compared Dooley's outrage to what they regarded as the silliness of native Americans protesting Indian-themed mascots used by some universities.
A sampling of 40-plus comments that overwhelmingly took issue with Dooley:
*"I showed the article to my Irish wife and she laughed. Why? The Irish love a joke, no more so than at their own expense. Irish-Americans with little more than a genetic connection to Ireland can be a bit too sensitive."
*"Hmm...My Irish ancestors were blitzed half the time, and proud of it. They worked hard and played hard, drank others under the table and got up the next morning to work again. I guess the T-shirts are meant for my rugged ancestors, not the lace-curtain Irish ancestors of Mr. Dooley."
*"Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked" So you complain about stereotypes but offer up another? I guess because in your eyes, this one is more positive. Get a sense of humor, it's obvious you are seriously lacking one."
*"Some demographic groups are very willing to be cast as victims and some are not...However, the vast majority of Irish-Americans are not willing to be cast as victims based on their ancestry and heritage. I think most Irish are teased because no one sees them as having a victim mentality or needing pity. Seriously speaking, victim mentality is not a preparation for success."
*"So these (T-shirts) are available for sale right now? I totally want one, maybe one for the misses too. (We're both Irish, so Ceiliúradh de Bruscar!)"
How ironic that John M. Dooley, rather than shaming the Circle Tap, has inadvertently given it priceless publicity - and probably boosted sales of its politically incorrect T-shirts. Tonight, the Circle Tap ought to be a fun place to knock back a few.
And I say "cheers."