Lyra McKee

Sometimes it seems that there’s never anything but tragic news coming out of Derry. I have to remind myself that there are plenty of wonderful things happening in the town I love so well and so many wonderful people who call it home…but yesterday as I sought those out my heart sank yet again. The headlines screamed out the news of a young woman who was killed in the crossfire on the city streets and it broke my heart.

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Top 5 ways to not be a jerk on St. Paddy’s Day

Yes it’s that time of year again. St. Patrick’s Day is upon us and here on the U.S. side of the puddle, it can quickly become a trash fire of epic proportions. This year I’ve decided to improve the easy list I started a few years ago so that we can hand it out to our beer hat-wearing, cheap leprechaun-looking, fake Irish-dancing friends in order to keep them (and us) from acting the fool. Here’s five simple DON’Ts that will make the Wearing of the Green safer and more palatable for everyone, no matter where you live or where you’re from. So in case you missed it the first time around – here we go!

1. Don’t pinch people. It’s rather hard to believe in the age of the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns that anyone still has to be told that aggressively grabbing, touching, or pinching strangers is wrong. However, just in case you thought that rule didn’t apply on St. Patrick’s Day let me remind you that it is still wrong to pinch any part of anyone for any reason without their permission. It will always be wrong to to touch or pinch people in any way without their consent, so keep your little pinchy urges and tiny crab claw fingers to yourself and just say no. Everyone, male or female, with thank you for it.

2.  DO. NOT. ORDER. AN. IRISH. CAR. BOMB. Seriously folks, I don’t know how many times I have to say this to people. Nothing personifies ignorance, caricature, and casual cruelty better than walking into an Irish pub and ordering up an Irish Car Bomb. This horrifically named cocktail is American-made and designed to get you very drunk very quickly. It is highly effective but it’s also named after a weapon that has been used to kill and maim literally THOUSANDS of people in the country it’s named after. No one who grew up in Ireland (or knows its history and/or has a deep love for it) can tolerate the obnoxious name for this drink and for many Irish people, it brings up trauma and terrible memories. It is not funny, not appropriate, and not cool for you or your friends to sell or order any drink by that name, and it could get you kicked out of your favorite Irish pub or it could just get you kicked in the face.

That being said, Irish Whiskey, Irish Cream, and Guinness are all very tasty treats. You can order and pay for a glass of each, mix the ingredients yourself, and try a delightful, super-intoxicating elixir. You could make up a new drink special just by calling it something else (it’s also been referred to as the ‘Holy Trinity’ and ‘the Ulster Flip’) or you can just refuse to serve or drink it at all and many Irish people and Irish history fans would thank you for it. You have to be on quite a mission already to give it a whirl but that doesn’t mean you have to be an ignorant douche when you order it at the bar.

3. Don’t misspell the name of the day. If you’re hunting for Irish-themed decor or clothing, choosing a hashtag, or you have some other reason to shorten the name of this holiday, please remember that the correct spelling is P-A-D-D-Y. It’s not St. Patty’s. There are no Ts in the Irish spelling of Padraig, nor any Ts in the abbreviated and shortened version of it. A good friend of mine once said “I always remember to stick with the Double Ds.” We were talking about his taste in women at that time, but the rule applies here just as well. Which brings us to another important rule.

4. Don’t buy into stereotyping or bigotry. If you want to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day good on you but you don’t have to propagate the stereotypes to do it. Pass on anything that conveys the message that Irish people are drunks, fighters, leprechauns, or idiots. Find something that celebrates Ireland’s rich culture instead of something that mocks it. The Irish have fought against these stereotypes for years and buying a T-Shirt that propagates them may seem harmless but it isn’t. The only way companies will ever offer a wider, more celebratory variety of St. Paddy’s Day swag is if their customers quit buying awful, bigoted costumes. Pass on the ‘Kiss me I’m Irish’ stuff too unless you are actively consenting to anyone doing just that. (See #1)

Don’t insult Ireland’s culture while you claim to be celebrating it.

One more thing along this line – when you’re using your outside voice, please realize that no one says “Top o’ the morning” or “Give me my lucky charms” ever and that fake accents of any kind are obnoxious, whether you’re drinking or not. Just keep that lilt in check.

5. Know your history. In IrelandSaint Patrick (Padraig) is celebrated for “driving the snakes out of Ireland” which is a metaphor for bringing Christianity to the island and systematically erasing its pagan roots. This is a Catholic holiday and how we celebrate it is decidedly NOT. Incidentally, this is also why the color code of the day is green, which is traditionally associated with the Catholic faith in Ireland. You shouldn’t have to wear it on St. Patrick’s Day if you’re not a Catholic but trying to explain that to a million and one drunken Grabby McPinchersons in the room, can be exhausting. (See #1.)

Now I am all for transforming the holiday from a religious one to a party and cultural celebration. I’ve no love for the Catholic religion. I personally support the ‘Bring the Snakes Back’ movement but stepping all over anyone’s culture is always messed up and should be avoided whenever possible. It’s easy to ignore the religious origin of St. Patrick’s Day when terrible T-shirts, sparkly shamrocks, green beer, and offensively named drinks are the norm but it is still a quiet, religious day for many. After all, St. Patrick’s Day is smack dab in the middle of Lent, which is a period of time when many Catholics give up things like alcohol and parties. There are plenty of traditional and religious folk in Ireland who rail against the parades and parties that have become decidedly more “Americanized” and secular in various parts of the country. Keep that tidbit particularly in mind if you ever decide to spend the holiday in rural Ireland. In the meantime, it’s always good to know where any holiday begins before celebrating (or reclaiming) it.

And there you have it. Five things you shouldn’t do this year or any other for that matter. Have fun, get wasted, dye your hair green, take the green Mardi-Gras beads out of the closet, go to mass, party all day and all night, sing some rebel songs or do whatever else you were planning to do – just try not to be a complete asshole when you’re doing it. Be sure to think ahead and plan a way home so you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else. Have a blast and remember one simple thing – treating other people and other cultures better every single day makes the world a better place.

Now then. Where’d I put my glittery green lipstick?

Sláinte.

Apologies dear readers

I must beg your pardon, if you’re still here. I can’t even believe how long it has been since I’ve had a minute to breathe, let alone write and research. It turns out that the greedy landlord problem is growing on both sides of the puddle – and I have recently been a victim of it myself. I lived in the same place for nearly two decades until this month when I was forced out of what might have been the last affordable place in the Bay Area.

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Dolores O’Riordan

She could sing like no other. She wrote hushed hymns and wailing battle cries. She hiccuped her way into the hearts of music lovers world-wide and turned a defiant protest song about her homeland into an international hit. Dolores O’Riordan was a force to be reckoned with and one of the most well known voices of Irish music for more than twenty-five years.

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Dan Breen

Dan Breen was an integral and powerful man in Ireland’s long fight for independence. He was a husband and father, a gangster, a politician, a speakeasy operator, and an author, but first and foremost he was a self-described soldier who was dedicated to freedom.

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Political snowballs

Politics in the north of Ireland are a tricky thing. For generations words, weapons, petrol bombs and more have been tossed from one side of the divide (and the border) to the other in an ongoing struggle for power. On this day in 1967 a different sort of projectile was thrown into the mix (ahem) when Rev. Ian Paisley launched snowballs at Jack Lynch, the Taoiseach of Ireland.

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No Stone Unturned

Living in California has its pros and cons. The weather is great but the strong Irish communities here don’t get as much love as they do in New York or Boston. It’s rare that the West Coast gets concerts, political visits, or films out of Ireland but that’s not to say that we don’t seek them out. We do have fairs, film festivals, and other events throughout the year but to see current news and films, we often have to trick the location sensors in our internet browsers so we can scour the internet for hours on end until we find an article, a link, or a video. That determination is how I’ve been lucky enough to see many fine Irish films, despite their lack of distribution in the states. This list now includes “No Stone Unturned,” a riveting and super important documentary by Alex Gibney about the brutal, “unsolved” murders of six people in a Loughinisland, County Down pub during the 1994 World Cup.

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