It’s pretty shameful how long it has taken to write another post in this blog. I look back and think, how did I have time to write so much just a few years ago? I haven’t lost my passion for Irish history and I continue to visit every chance I get. I still devour every bit of history and culture that I can and I research and learn things all the time but I don’t seem to write about it as much. The idealism and romanticizing of Ireland that I was certainly guilty of at times has evolved into a more realistic, more moderate, and steadfast love of the country and its history. I don’t write about it much anymore and that’s what makes this morning unusual. I got up to go to the Easter Rising Commemoration here in the San Francisco Bay Area as I’ve done in the past, but instead of heading to the grave of a Fenian who was also a corrupt cop and a horrible racist, I am sitting here in the mood to burn bridges and actually writing again. I guess that’s because I find it hard to believe that in one of the most liberal areas in the entire United States, the annual Easter Rising commemoration honoring Ireland’s Patriot Dead is still at the gravesite of a revolutionary but terrible human, who had nothing in common with the leaders of the Rising except for their love of Ireland.
I’ve written about Thomas Desmond before, after the first time I went to the Bay Area commemoration. Back then I cared about fitting into the San Francisco Irish community somehow and my piece on the city’s awfully corrupt and horrendously racist sheriff was timid. It did speak some truth about the man, but I wrote it without calling out their choice of a hero. The Irish Proclamation espouses equality, socialism, and freedom – ideals that Thomas Desmond certainly did not practice in his every day life so many years and commemorations later I feel like it’s time to find a better option. San Francisco has a long history of Irish Republicanism and surely we can find another, less conservative and less controversial person to visit annually, while remembering the Rising. I know that many Fenian heroes and Republican soldiers are often complicated and not always great examples of the idealism that the Proclamation calls for, but in an area that is known for historically supporting the cause and for giving refuge to many immigrants, including the exiled Irish, there has to be a better option than an anti-immigrant, corrupt cop. In my humble opinion, it’s time to look for one.
Until that time, I’ll wear my Easter lily with pride here in the Bay Area and will continue to commemorate the men and women who fought for Irish freedom by learning and occasionally writing about them. For me, how we honor them and where we honor them matters, so Thomas Desmond’s grave is no longer an option for me. Instead, I’ll enjoy some Irish music at my local, tell everyone there who asks why I’m wearing a lily, and I’ll raise a glass or two to the Boys and Girls of the Old Brigade, who fought for a united and free Ireland so bravely during Easter week in 1916 and beyond.
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