CSotD: Happy Stepin McFetchit Day

The Barn pretty well summarizes the day. As an excuse to get blind drunk, it’s not bad. As a holiday saluting a nation, well, it’s only one day out of 365 and tomorrow all those fools will be at work hungover.

That should be punishment enough, but feel free to cheerfully ask them if they’ve got a case of the Mondays.

Until relatively recently, St. Patrick’s Day was an important holy day in Ireland, but hardly a party, since it invariably falls during Lent when observant Catholics were discouraged if not forbidden to drink alcohol.

Observant mostly when they were being observed, Mr. Dooley would surely agree.

And as an Irish American, Mr. Dooley would recognize St. Patrick’s Day as not only a celebration by a downtrodden immigrant group, but as a fundraising opportunity for supporters of the fight for independence.

In fact, all sorts of gatherings supported the effort, though Mr. Dooley looked upon it all with a bit of skepticism:

Be hivins, if Ireland cud be freed be a picnic, it ‘d not on’y be free to-day, but an impire, begorra,

And that, by the way, is the origin of wearing green on St. Paddy’s Day.

St. Patrick’s own color is blue, but the color of Irish nationalism was green, and whether or not they ever hanged people in Ireland for wearing it, patriots around the world displayed it to show their solidarity with the cause.


Paul Berge has a selection of editorial cartoons from a century ago on the topic, and what was whimsically funny for Mr. Dooley two decades earlier became deadly serious as new nations crawled forth from the wreckage of the Great War.

The Irish had felt they were old enough for long pants quite a while, but things got serious after the war and, in fact, had gotten serious during the war, as the saying “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” was put into serious practice.


Arlo & Janis notes that the border has come back into the news, though I suspect it’s more of an arguing point for the Brexit and anti-Brexit forces than for the Nationalist/Unionist Irish.

The Troubles of 40 years ago, after all, were sparked by civil rights issues and kindled by the massive unemployment in Belfast and Derry.

Had the British government responded to the attack on marchers at Burntollet Bridge the way the American government had responded to a similar event four years earlier at the Edmund Pettus Bridge — with reform instead of repression — the IRA might never have become resurgent, and I doubt they will now.

As for those stupid leprechauns, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and other Irish American groups got the greeting card companies to tone down the drunken Irishman hilarity some years ago, but the overall tackiness lingers on.

The Irish were one of the last immigrant groups to achieve acceptance by blending in, which is basically the difference between the Lucky Charms mascot and Stepin Fetchit.

That is, the portrayals are the same and it’s just a matter of whether you shrug it off or stand up and object.

Shanty Irish glower silently.

Lace Curtain Irish giggle and put on a green plastic hat.


The back-and-forth between shanty Irish and lace curtain Irish was a central feature in “Bringing Up Father,” George MacManus’s classic strip about a construction company owner who becomes wealthy, to his utter indifference but to the delight of his social-climbing wife.

Well, maybe this is the one day poor old Jiggs can wander down to the club for a game of poker or over to Dinty Moore’s for the corned beef and cabbage that would so humiliate Maggie.

(I bought some of the heavily discounted corned beef at the grocery store this week, but am boiling it with turnips instead of cabbage. I doubt that substitution would assuage Maggie.)


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Bill Day)

(La Cucaracha)

We don’t often see a juxtaposition of an editorial cartoon with a strip, but Bill Day dropped this seasonal commentary a few days ago, and my mind immediately went to the San Patricios and Bernardo O’Higgins and the like.

Lalo Alcaraz goes directly for the Mexican connection, and even welcomes O’Rourke, who has no Mexican blood but picked up his nickname as a kid in El Paso because it’s a diminutive for Spanish names ending in “berto,” and his actual name is Robert.

Which conservatives seem to feel is an issue, much as they feel it was an issue for Barack Obama to have once had the anglophone nickname “Barry” or for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes to have been a fun, creative person in college.

“Canelo,” by the way, is a nickname for people with red hair, but I would not suggest mocking the bearer of that one, who is a reminder that the Celts lived in Spain before they got to Britain and Ireland.

Which reminds me that there is a persistent legend among the Irish that, when the Spanish Armada fled Drake by going around Ireland, shipwrecked Spanish sailors were taken in by the natives and are responsible for dark hair among the Irish.

Which not only overemphasizes the prevalence of dark hair among the Spanish in the first place, but, with all due respect, overemphasizes their genetic dominance. Or at least the size of the Armada.

I prefer the old folktale of the Irish chieftain who was baptized by St. Patrick, after which the good saint realized to his horror that, when he’d stuck the point of his bishop’s staff into the ground to free his hands, he’d accidentally jammed it through the chieftain’s sandaled foot.

He apologized profusely, at which the old warlord shrugged and replied, “I just thought it was part of the ceremony.”

May you view life’s pain with similar equanimity, misplaced or not.


As it happens, there’s a Spanish Lady in here …

I’ve often mentioned my Irish ballad group. Here’s a memory I wrote of them, which includes a playlist of other people doing the music we once did.

It won’t be the worst Irish music you’ll hear today.



3 thoughts on “CSotD: Happy Stepin McFetchit Day

  1. Thanks for the link!

    BTW, St. Patrick’s Day is at least a bigger deal in Ireland than Cinco de Mayo is in Mexico. I notice that there is no pressing business at home keeping Ireland’s Taoiseach from popping over here to the states every March 17.

    The invitation is open for some other country to make a big alcohol-overdosing holiday out of our Loyalty Day.

  2. Please don’t take offense at this, but I always thought of “Eamon DeValera” as a rather Spanish/Irish name.

  3. His father was Basque, so someone could indeed be offended at your conjecture, but it wouldn’t be the Irish. (His mother was Irish.)

    Dev was spared execution after the Easter Rising in part because he’d been born in the US and the British were reluctant to shoot him until they were certain of his citizenship. By the time they’d straightened it out, they were beginning to realize that shooting the prisoners was creating martyrs and heroes. Too late for the others, but just in time for Dev.

    This does tie into a semi-relevant bit of trivia regarding those dark haired Irish/Spanish/whatever: When they filmed “The Sun Also Rises,” they used a Mexican fiesta for the San Fermin shots, which would naturally lead people to think Basques are actually mestizo and carry around giant statues of the Virgin.

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