Heads or Tails Tuesdays
Wearin’ o’ the green
Identity is a funny thing. Others will seek to define or classify us in order to place us in their world. We all do it. We spent a great deal of time discussing this process in my Women’s Studies and Psychology classes. Oddly enough, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus about whether it’s good or bad, either as a process or a tool. The fact is that we all do it. Period. Since I’m not fortunate enough to be in school at the moment, I’m not going to delve into my favorite theorists beliefs about the subject. What I will mention is the concept of “other”. At some point in our lives, we’ve all been the “other”. When you are new to a group, a place, a process, and you don’t know the standard and accepted mores, you are an outsider. Appearing differently, acting differently, speaking differently, worshiping differently — all can subject us to the other classification.
My heritage is Irish. To see me is to know that. Oddly enough, that is not the word people use to define me these days. For each of us in the Western world, we are subject to a gamut of definitions in our lives. As children, we are frequently defined by our parents. As teens, our social group is paramount. Throughout our lives, in any new situation, our physical appearance defines us because that is the immediate information available to process. Color is always a vivid cue.
As has happened to many cultural, ethnic or religious groups throughout history, the Irish had the misfortune to be classified as the other in their own land. Their history is rife with invasion, strife and dissent. Many of us are on the American continent today because of this strife and dissent. As a group, we tend to be proud of our Irish heritage. Because of this, we have continued a tradition of our forebears called “the wearin’ o’ the green.” While this celebration of our ethnic roots has been generalized into a fun celebration for all, the basis of this celebration was a time when the Irish were forbidden the accoutrements that demonstrated their identity — cultural, religious or political. Hence the wearin’ o’ the green was a dangerous and radical form of dissent and gravely significant.
As we prepare to celebrate another St. Paddy’s Day, with our green beer and corned beef, I will be remembering the significance of the wearin’ o’ the green. When you don your green this year, will you consider the others in your family, community, country and world, who are currently struggling to maintain their identities, and resolve to contribute in your own small way to their freedom to celebrate their identity in fun and safety.
Happy St. Paddy’s Day
The Wearin’ o’ the Green
Oh, Paddy dear! and did ye hear the news that’s goin’ round?
The shamrock is forbid by law to grow on Irish ground!
No more St. Patrick’s day we’ll keep; his colour can’t be seen,
For there’s a cruel law ag’in’ the Wearin’ o’ the Green!
I met with Napper Tandy, and he took me by the hand,
And he said, “How’s poor would Ireland, and how does she stand?”
“She’s the most distressful country that ever yet was seen,
For they’re hanging men and women there for the Wearin’ o’ the Green.
An’ if the colour we must wear is England’s cruel red,
Let it remind us of the blood that Ireland has shed;
Then pull the shamrock from your hat, and throw it on the sod,
An’ never fear, ’twill take root there, though under foot ’tis trod.
When law can stop the blades of grass from growin’ as they grow,
An’ when the leaves in summer time their colour dare not show,
Then I will change the colour, too, I wear in my caubeen;
But till that day, plaise God, I’ll stick to the Wearin’ o’ the Green.
Colum, Padraic, editor, Anthology of Irish Verse, New York, Boni & Liveright, 1922
Heads or Tails is a weekly meme played on Tuesdays. For the weekly theme, please visit Skittles. Anyone can play. In fact the more, the merrier! The contributions of other participants, with code and instructions, can be found on the Heads or Tails site.