Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Irish and Proud

Before I begin this, I'd like to first say that I am currently writing this article after having woken up at 6:00 in the morning and couldn't go back to sleep. Some of my writing may seem to be written out of ignorance, and if any should find it offensive (particularly those of the Emerald Isle), I wish to extend my profound apologies and hope you understand that I mean nothing but the best and stand for cultural equality and peace between nations.

I've had several memorable conversations in the past with several people of different ancestries, backgrounds, and nationalities.

Granted, before I go any further, I should preface myself and state the obvious - regardless of whether or not you and I are the closest of friends or the newest acquaintances, it's hard to have a conversation with me without having some mention of Ireland. I am not one given to subtlety. This is not always a welcome trait.

I have had some reactions which surprised me. Very early on in my Irish obsession, someone very close to me asked which Ireland I was in love with - Northern or Republic. At the time, I had either only just known that there were, in fact, "2 Irelands," or had not known that fact at all. Trying to regain credibility in my new-found community, I said, "Whichever is home to the "Irish culture" we know and love." While that may seem like a suitable answer for me at the time, it proved to be somewhat childish and dangerously ostracizing to whichever side I did not pick.

The person, who meant nothing more than the best for me, mind you, responded, "You probably mean the Republic of Ireland - and if you place your loyalties there, then you place your loyalties with the IRA (Irish Republican Army)." I had known very little of the Troubles then, and know not that much more today. He continued, "The Irish Catholics screwed over the Protestant Irish a long time ago." I should note here, that the person I was talking to was what I called "an agnostic Christian," (certainly not Catholic, by any means) whereas I was/am a Presbyterian. I should also note that said person was not saying I should side with Northern Ireland, either. "Northern Ireland has had a lot of violence lately, too." This statement was true - bombings had recently happened in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but the source of said bombing was unclear. It could have been neo-IRA members or terrorists having nothing to do with Ireland or the Troubles.

I had a conversation with another friend of mine. He claimed he was "Scots-Irish," and when I said "Me, too," he said, "Well, I don't mean your Ireland. I'm Northern Irish. I don't care for the other Irish. They persecuted the Northern Irish Protestants." I had heard similar sentiment for the Republic of Ireland from people from England, saying they didn't think too fondly of those "Paddies from Ireland." I should note here, that though I know that part of my ancestry (however small or large) is Irish, I do not know whether it is Northern Irish ancestry, Republic ancestry, or both. I have yet to see the family tree which is kept by a grandparent who lives far away from me.

Do I care if my ancestry is Republic or Northern? Only by the fact that I want to know what part of Ireland I come from - not to find what "side" to be on.

After talking to several people, Irish and non-Irish, I have come to some conclusions regarding my entrance into Ireland.

1) If someone asks you your religion, say, "Christian," or politely decline comment.
2) Don't parade your opposing views in public - be courteous about your views and people will generally leave you alone.
3) The Troubles are long over - Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are generally at peace with each other, yet talking about some tender subjects in a manner other than respectful is a good way to get punched.

My message to people who bring up the old conflicts in Ireland - the ancestral victims who cry, "Your ancestors persecuted my ancestors," and the like is this:

Judge a person by his own actions today, not by the actions his forerunners did years ago - those are not your burdens to bear. Protestants and Catholics all worship the same Christ.

My Ireland is not an Ireland defined by the IRA, or the Troubles, or misplaced nationalism. My Ireland is the warm, friendly community, musical by nature and by proud choice, within a setting of surpassing beauty and forty shades of green. Never meeting a stranger, the newest acquaintance is always deserving of a round of the finest drinks, and tall tales being told with cheerful tongues in cheek. Blessings of good health and fortune are upon everyone from hello to goodbye.

Le gra.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Call

Two days ago, I was asked what my fascination with Ireland was. I told them what I told many people. I was in love with the culture, the music, and the Guinness history of the Emerald Isle. It was an answer that was comfortable, and I had grown used to answering the question in this way.

Yesterday, I was asked the same question twice in two situations. One was during a live webcam chat on blogtv.com. The second was during my weekly Wednesday night discussion group at the Presbyterian Center on campus. Both of them had the same gist of a different answer.

When I hear Irish music, or I read about Irish culture, or I learn about its history, I feel some connection to what I take in. You may immediately assume it has something to do with my heritage. Yes, I am indeed part Irish...but I'm also part English, German, Welsh, Spanish, and Scottish. So what makes Ireland different from the rest of my countries of origin. Ireland is not where most of my ancestors come from - England and Scotland take the cake in that respect. To my knowledge, there weren't many really notable people in my Irish ancestry - my German ancestors were royalty in some way or another. Wales and Scotland were both Celtic countries just like Ireland. I don't really dislike any of the music of the other countries of origin. I feel like marching every time I hear the bagpipes playing "Scotland the Brave," and England's The Who remains my family's favorite band of all time.

So what puts Ireland above the rest in my book? That's part of the reason I dream of going to Ireland - to find out. Could I be called to work in reconciliation mission work between the Catholics and the Protestants? I'm not on a record search to find my ancestors in Ireland, but I am trying to find that emotional, spiritual, and almost religious connection I have with the Emerald Isle. The mystery further expands the agony of the seemingly far away goal of actually going there.

                          ...but in the end, it will make it all the sweeter.

Le gra.

P.S. My funds took a hit yesterday, due to some financial necessities. A pretty big hit, but I know I'll find a way to pull through it. Gonna be looking for a campus job soon.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Foreshadowing Ireland

I have already told my few readers about having my eyes open to Ireland via a Celtic Woman video on Youtube. To me, that's the "realization" of my love for Ireland...yet it wasn't the beginning.

The actual beginning of my love for Ireland began in high school. I was in several choruses at school, studying under a big name teacher - Lew Cisto, a very kind and encouraging man, who helped many students find their talents. While I don't see myself anywhere near as talented as his most distinguished subjects, Mr. Cisto was very encouraging of the talent I did have.

One day, I happened to come across my favorite song from Lion King 2 (go figure) - "We Are One." I sang it for my parents, and they thought I sounded like an Irish ballad singer when I sang it. I sang it again with Mr. Cisto, and he took a moment to think about it and said,

"You know, Angus, I like that. It really does sound like an Irish ballad."

He didn't say much more at the time, and I put it out of my mind. But later, he'd say multiple times, usually on the way to class:

"Angus, if you exercise that Irish voice of yours and pick up maybe an instrument, you could make a great side living, you know?"

I took it as a massive compliment, but I didn't think much of it. And I'm not saying that I'm going to start trying to make a side living as an American singing Irish music...

                                                                                              ...but you never know.

Le gra.

P.S. Still only halfway to acquiring funds for Ireland. Income is at a stand-still in college. :(

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

People Who Push You

Throughout your life, you will find people who will push you to do anything, even things you didn't know you would ever want/could/should do. There will be people who will push you to pursue your dreams even when you don't have the strength or motivation to do it yourself. You can't always trust you parents to support your dreams - at least, not in the ways only your friends can. As you all know if you've read my blog, my dream is to go to Ireland - a dream that has proved to be quite challenging to fulfill thus far, but I am lucky to have a few people in my life who push me to pursue my dreams to the best of my abilities.

Celtic Woman Forum - O.k. This one is pretty obvious. My love for Ireland was realized via Celtic Woman, so no doubt I'd be getting some reassuring nods of approval and encouragement from the lovely folks at CWF. Just to name a few - Rich (OldFatGuy), Chris Ropes (CRRopes), shankdee, Chris Brillante, Gaby Brillante, and Sara. (Muah muah to Sara)

I'd also like to point out the folks at Lisa Kelly and Mairead Nesbitt forums. Sure, they may not actually know that they have indirectly supported my dream, but their love for LK, MN, and CW always rejuvenates my spirits and help me push onward.

My Mother - Though she tries to be realistic in ways sometimes detrimental to my dream's pursuit, she has always supported my decision to go to Ireland.

My best friend, Joe - High school friendships die hard when they go their separate ways in college, and the same can be said for my friendship to Joe. When Mom is putting me down and telling me there's no way I could go to Ireland by this coming summer, Joe has always been there to let me vent and get my head on straight.

Holly - We've never met in person - she lives in New Zealand and we met in an online Harry Potter roleplaying game chatroom (don't judge me). In the past year, she and I have reconnected and I have since gone on and on to her about my love for Ireland. Her never-ending support, even though our chats are relatively infrequent in relation to the other folks, is so vital in my race against time and money to find a way to the Emerald Isle.

Kimberly - One of my dearest friends who has become not unlike a sister to me. She has perhaps been my strongest supporter - pushing me to find a plan to make my dream to go to Ireland this summer happen. Without her support, I'd probably have given up on a lot of things including Ireland.

I can't express enough how thankful I am to know these people, as well as how much their love and support mean to me.