Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What Can I Say? I'm Half-Irish: and You Know What They're Like

"Trail rapist pleads guilty" was the lead story in this week's paper, and in this blog's Wednesday post. It's the sort of thing that just doesn't happen in the Mayberry RFD/Green Acres version of small town America.

What's a bit awkward is that the fellow who ran into a cornfield, was caught, confessed, and pleaded guilty, seems to be from Guatemala.

In the more 'relevant' portrayals, a situation like this, where someone who is neither Irish nor German was accused and convicted, you'd expect to see a mob with torches and pitchforks. And a few of the townsfolk, inexplicably speaking with a southern-redneck drawl, would utter vile racist comments.

I'm pretty sure that a few people in town made catty remarks about those people. I've lived in cities and in small towns - and there are jerks everywhere.

On the other hand, not all folks in the cities I've lived in were jerks - and the same is true for the boonies.

Typhoid Mary and the Trail Rapist - Yeah, There's a Connection

I ran across an account of Typhoid Mary in today's online Wired magazine. Mary Mallon was born in 1869, was an Irish immigrant, a fine cook, and a healthy carrier of typhoid fever. She was ordered to not work as a cook - but ignored the court's demand.

Unreasonable? Maybe. But look at it this way: She felt fine; she didn't show any symptoms of typhoid fever; she'd been tested - and found to be disease free; and she was Irish.

This was in the "good old days." As the article put it:
"...Mallon felt persecuted, and she may have had good reason considering the class prejudice that existed then, which fueled the prevailing attitude that 'dirty immigrants' were responsible for most epidemics...."
(Wired)
Odds are pretty good that the chemist who found Mary Mallon disease-free was right, as far as tests available at the time went - and that she was in remission at the time.

That was then, this is now. America has had an Irish president - and survived - and that quintessentially Irish holiday, St. Patrick's Day, has become a time when just about everybody claims to be part Irish.

I think it helped that after Irishmen got haircuts, dropped the accent and our zesty taste in attire, and learned to walk stiffly - we could pass as Anglos. I also think that times have changed - by now, too many people in responsible positions have a family history of being 'those people.'

In my case, about half my ancestors came from √Čire, and some were more proud of the fact than others. As one of them said of that smooth-talking Irishman who was sniffing around her daughter, "he doesn't have family: he's Irish." (Through One Dad's Eye, March 17, 2008)

Yep. Those were the 'good old days.'

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