Sure, and now I’ll be after havin’ the Irish on me case

There was no way to avoid it, I suppose. It was inevitable from the moment I put a lame, mildly joshing headline on this item about Bill Murray.

Next thing you know, I get this e-mail from a fella name of … well, let’s call him "Kelly":

Sent: Thursday,
August 23, 2007 8:41 AM
To: Warthen, Brad – External
Subject: Irish Catholics
Brad,  Thanks for another brain-dead stereotype of
Irish Catholics on your blog.
I understand that you are a parishoner at St.
Peter’s.  How does someone like you write a headline like that on your blog and
then actually show up for mass?  I appreciate you revealing who you really
I know about 42 Irish-Catholic men in my Ancient
Order of Hibernians group in Columbia.  None of which are anything close to how
you stereotyped them.
Its despicable that you believe it is OK to trash
us for no reason on your blog.  Lets see if you do the same to Jews, Muslims,
Protestants, etc.  I know that you don’t have the cohones.
Please RSVP

Ah, now, it’s the Hibernians, is it? Are yeh sure they’re the genuine article, if none have been known to take a dram now and again?

I happen to be Irish — well, with some English and Welsh and Scot mixed in — and I’m Catholic. By choice — not one of your low-commitment, let-Father-worry-about-paying-for-the-new-roof cradle Catholics. I’m hard-core, a true believer. And I’ve been known to hoist a jar, perhaps two (last time I checked, that wasn’t against our rules). And, most to the point, it’s not beneath me to have a bit of craic — but to my thinkin’, a proper gentleman has craic at his own expense or his own lot’s, not at other peoples’.

So when I wrote back to ask Mr. Kelly — rather brusquely, I’ll confess (but subtlety is not "our people’s" forte) — to lighten up, it was a failure:

    Thanks for the reply. I figured something about
not having a "sense of humor" would be all you had to give me.
I just don’t know how you see an AP story about
Bill Murray getting drunk and driving a golf cart in Sweden and turn that into
some stereotypical cheap-shot at Irish-Catholic people.  I don’t see how you
make that connection.
    You should apologize on your website for that blog
entry headline.

Oh, I’m sorry — sorry that it bugs you so much. (And how did I make the connection? Let’s see — his name’s Murray. He’s the fifth of five kids. He has a brother named Brian Doyle. He has a sister who’s a nun. I put two and two together.) Folks, all craic aside — this kind of defensiveness regarding one’s own sort is at the heart of most of the sorrow in this world. It’s had men at each other’s throats in the Balkans, in Iraq and yes, back on the Auld Sod. We’re never going to have peace on this planet until we can wear our ethnicity lightly, if we must wear it at all.

And if we can’t even have a smile at our own, well, we don’t stand a chance.

But I’ve probably dug this hole deeper than I intended, and I’m no doubt going to run into "Kelly" at Mass, and if I’ve really hurt his feelings, I’ll feel bad about it. I already do. But what I really want, what I really hope for, is for him not to be so bothered by it. That would make be feel better about the whole world. Let’s let all those other groups play the Identity Politics game of resentment, while we try to set an example by letting it go.

Look — it was a stupid joke. I feel ridiculous defending it. But it’s the chip-on-the-shoulder readiness to take offense that gets my goat enough to make me not want to back down. There’s another stereotype for you — that "donkey" stubbornness.

Now I’ve got a phone message from a "Kennedy," wanting to know if I wrote that headline. I called him back, but I had to leave a message, too. I left him my cell number. Now I’ve got that hanging over my head all weekend. Sigh.

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