I can’t seem to focus on my regular, historical content these days and I apologize for the sporadic nature of the last couple of months. My state of mind can be summed up in a brilliantly tragic tweet by a certain Tim Grierson who says: “Being angry all the time is exhausting and corrosive. Not being angry all the time feels morally irresponsible.” He’s right – this is life in America (and other places too I’m sure) these days. But before I attempt to return to my regularly scheduled Irish history program, I have to publicly lose my mind for a minute so that my little corner of international readers understands one very important thing. Americans are not OK.
The Irish have always flocked to America’s shores for one reason or another. Some have argued that the Irish built America itself, despite its inherent distrust and discriminatory attitudes toward them. And just how did the U.S. repay them for their work? Not well. America treated the Irish horribly. There were anti-Irish riots. There were “No Irish” signs. The Irish people were used and abused for years but they kept coming and eventually they became part of the fabric of the country where many thrived. It’s safe to say that without them, the United States would be a very different place.
Today there are 34.5 million people in the U.S. who claim an Irish heritage, which is nearly 30 million more than the entire population of Ireland itself. This includes the few hundred thousand Irish-born people who currently live and/or work in America legally but it doesn’t count the estimated 10,000-50,000 Irish people who are not legally supposed to be in the country. These folks usually settle in so-called “Sanctuary cities” like New York, Boston, and San Francisco where there are large, established Irish communities and city law enforcement agencies that do not contact or cooperate with immigration officials unless absolutely necessary. It creates an illusion of safety but the pervasive threat of discovery is serious and it’s getting more dire every day.
The Irish Hunger Memorial stands on the edge of the Hudson River in New York City. It commemorates the journey that many thousands of Irish men, women, and children made to America while fleeing An Gorta Mór – Ireland’s Great Hunger. It is a stunning site that has seen its fair share of controversy and closures, but there’s finally some good news for New York’s little piece of Ireland.
I apologize dear reader, for being missing in action of late. The shitshow we are facing in my unfortunate place of birth is keeping me preoccupied and so depressed that I can barely function, let alone write. I can only deal with the news or any sort of political anything for about five minutes at a time and usually after those precious minutes I am a mess and looking up visa options all over the world.
The jet lag has kicked in and I’m having some exhaustion-related come down from my travels, but before I crash, here are just a few more shots of the amazing and poignant Irish Hunger Memorial in New York City. More photos and tales to come soon as soon as I catch up on my sleep.
It really did feel like Ireland there for a minute…
So you want to move to America? Whatever for?! Unless you are in a “third world” country, chances are your health care is better, your education is better, your work schedule is better, and people are probably kinder where you already are. Considering the weakness of our dollar, our union-busting corporations that are considered people, the current political climate, our abhorrent race and gender issues, and our militarized police force, I would encourage you to think again before coming to the “Land of the Free.” However, since a lot of people are still interested in moving here, I thought I’d go over some of the most common ways to accomplish it and throw my observations into the mix. We are hard on our immigrants—legal or not—and there are several things to consider. Here are some of them, wrapped up in the most frequent ways to get into good ol ‘Merica. Keep in mind, this isn’t even about the path to citizenship. These are just things I’ve witnessed while watching people try to obtain semi-permanent residence and entrance into our work force. Citizenship is even more difficult.
Today I give you a love story – one that I hope will become a fairy tale ending. When I begrudgingly came home from Ireland at the start of the year, I had a coffee date with a good friend who was enthralled with the stories I was sharing with her. She promptly went home and started researching Ireland on many sites – including a dating one that she had a profile on.
She changed her location search to Ireland and browsed a few profiles there. Within a couple of weeks, she was in constant conversation with a man from Dublin. Each stayed up all night to continue talking despite the time difference and when she flew to Dublin six months later for her first “real” date, I was thrilled for her, particularly when they hit it off even better in person. By the time she left, she had met the parents and friends, and they were planning for him to move here to the U.S.
This is where I think the story goes a little backwards, at least in my head. I want to leave the U.S. and live in Ireland, and eventually, so does she. While I was traveling there, the first question most people asked me once they learned I was an American was “Well, what the hell are you doing here?”. I understand the economy is terrible in Ireland – it is here too – but I was surprised and saddened when the people I spoke to were desperate to get out of Ireland – particularly when all I wanted to do was stay. It is thought that more Irish live outside Ireland than within it, which is a terrible statistic.
But I digress. He was to move here. When he was laid off in Ireland, he joined thousands who had been unable to find a job, and she has one here that could support them both temporarily. So despite her desire to eventually move there, he just landed here in the United States and they are off to a good, if lightning quick, start.
Here is where the tricky business of visas comes into play. He can only stay for a few months unless they get married – which is their plan – to the bewilderment, trepidation, and fascination of everyone that hears their tale. They are a love match but are still getting to know each other outside of the internet. In addition, he has to acquaint himself with a whole new country in a short amount of time, one in which he likely will be unable to work at least for a few months. They have been forced through geography and government to make drastic decisions in an incredibly short amount of time.
They’re choosing each other, consequences be damned. Whether it works out in the end or not, I have to salute their willingness to change everything for each other and try to make it work. It’s rare to find a person who matches you – especially one who will grab the hand and jump – no matter where that leads. Their story gives me a goofy grin and can only hope that it works for them…despite my belief that she’s doing it backwards.
Slainte to you both