The Marshall Plan: What the Irish are saying

Since my earliest memory Iâ??ve enjoyed traditional Irish music. The little ditties about death, disease, rebellion, starvation, the gallows, prison ships and moonshine were always uplifting.

Though the details remain a bit blurry, I think that Iâ??ve enjoyed most of the St. Patrickâ??s Days included in my stay on planet earth. The foam on my pint of Guinness was like a taste of some remnant of my heritage.

As Americans and Irish-Americans we have gone full commercial bonkers over this once quaint religious holiday. Weâ??ve turned it into a big boisterous festival for people to proclaim dubious percentages of Irish blood.

Have you ever wondered what the people in Ireland actually think about St. Patrickâ??s Day?

â??This year’s Paddy’s Day is going to be a very modern Dublin version. My wife and I won’t be going to the city centre to the parade. We will actually be trying to avoid all the clichés. Most people we know do,â? reported my close friend Jonny Finlay, a native Dubliner as he offered his take on St. Paddyâ??s Day in modern Ireland. â??Instead, we will be going to one of the events that make us both happiest, and itâ??s a great example of the new Ireland. Weâ??re going to an Irish craft beer and whiskey festival.â?

What gives? This might shatter our Darby Oâ??Gill, Quiet Man inspired notions of an Ireland that is more of an American pastoral fantasy. Strangely, it turns out that many in Ireland are copying us while we were dreaming of friendly fiddlers in the public houses. The whole thing has gone full circle.

â??We have seen massive progress in Ireland on the craft brewing and distilling front, with the irony being that it has very much been inspired by the U.S. beer scene,â? said Finlay. â??I think there is an important parallel there: Irish people are known worldwide for our love of beer and pub culture, but we had allowed our brewing scene to be reduced to only a handful of breweries. Our choices were a small number of industrial beers. Today, thanks to people coming to love American style micro-brewing, we have an explosion of outstanding small breweries!â?

Itâ??s been said that St. Patrickâ??s Day has become uniquely American in its observance. I always had a notion that the Irish were chuckling at our over-the-top behavior.

St. Patrickâ??s Day can be cornier than corned-beef, especially when we consider the â??amateursâ? as I like to call them. The hats, the buttons and of course the â??Kiss Me Iâ??m Irishâ? buttons give them away. It has to run deeper than people wearing leprechaun socks and longing for pasty complexions.

â??Itâ??s a little ironic as short as 20 years ago. The idea of American beer was a joke. Now, we have copied the American beer revival. At the same time, we now have a Paddies Day festival that is almost completely an American invention,â? Finlay commented. â??The old version of St. Patrickâ??s Day was not really that fun. It was a dour religious festival until enough Irish people experienced it in the U.S. and brought the fun version back with them! Indeed, as it is a bit of a pilgrimage for Irish cultural groups, at least 50 percent of the people who march in the parade here come from other countries like the United States.â?

Then he drops the real bombshell about one of my favorite beers.

â??The big controversy for most Irish people occurs when they discover new Irish craft brewers. Then they realize Guinness, an industrial brew made by a giant multinational, isn’t really that Irish anymore…whisper it…and isn’t actually that good. Now small Irish brewers are making truly delicious traditional Irish stout the way it should be,â? lamented Finlay. â??We are reinventing our own cultural themes here.â?

Despite this myth-shattering news, I still think thereâ??s something about the spirit of the Irish in America— something beyond the spirits consumed. They helped build America.

The Irish-immigrants manned the fire trucks, walked the beat, bled in the Civil War and helped build the American dream. In America, we love our idealized versions of the places we came from and often forget the reasons we love our own nation.

Itâ??s more than a day for silly hats and saints forgiveâ?¦ green beer. The Irish have a legacy of humor, hardship, harmony and hard work. They give it to you straight with no chaser. So have your pint in celebration this week, but do it with class and an artfully crafted microbrew, after all, thatâ??s what the Irish are doing. Slainte!

Marshall Conner is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at kelpiescot@gmail.com