From my perspective, St. Patrick’s Day has always been treated as an excuse by people with little to no connection or interest in Irish culture to get blackout drunk starting at 10 a.m. It’s how the holiday, and the culture, has more or less been treated by popular media and pretty much everyone I’ve encountered.
Imagine having whatever ethnicity or cultural heritage you feel attached to relegating to mindless drunkenness. Or the one major event to celebrate where your family comes from be treated as little more than a national joke by the rest of the country.
I’d like to make two concessions. First off, I know that in terms of things that Americans need to address in how they treat other cultures, Irish heritage is pretty low down the list. While it’s true that the Irish used to face real, tangible discrimination in the United States, those days are long since gone and anyone arguing otherwise is arguing in bad faith. The Irish are an “in” group in America, plain and simple.
Second, drinking is part of the Irish national identity. My griping won’t change that. But in the same way that cheeseburgers shouldn’t define all Americans, Guinness and drinking shouldn’t define Ireland.
Alcoholism has been a very real part of my family, so I’ve always looked elsewhere for how to be “Irish.” For me personally, I’ve always associated my Irish identity with the struggles of Irish nationalism: the Irish War of Independence my great-grandfather fought in, the hunger strikes led by Bobby Sands against Margaret Thatcher’s government, the Bloody Sunday massacre of which victims are still seeking justice and, ultimately, the Good Friday Agreement.
It also means having to come to terms with the unforgivable crimes by members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army and my own personal support for the Sinn Féin party. The Irish identity has historically been one of struggle.
No other “in” group in American society has their culture treated like a joke as the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Every ethnicity in the world drinks, but no one else is reduced to just drinking. So to see things like Snapchat’s St. Patrick’s Day filter or Instagram stories over the weekend of people wearing shamrocks drinking out of beer bongs makes me pissed off. And until it stops, I’m going to keep hating St. Patrick’s Day.