JOPLIN, Mo. —
When my family was living in Ames, Iowa, I spent part of the second grade attending St. Cecilia’s Catholic School.
The assistant pastor of St. Cecilia’s was a young Irish priest. Well, he didn’t appear young to me because I was in the second grade, but he was younger than the pastor. Also, I don’t know for a fact that the young priest was from Ireland. I have just always assumed that he was because whenever he would visit our classroom he would sing “Clancy Lowered the Boom” for us.
If you’re not familiar with that song, I should tell you that it is about — follow me here — a guy named Clancy who is always “lowering the boom.” According to the song, Clancy was normally a peaceful gent, but whenever someone “got his Irish up,” Clancy would get mad and lower the boom. Usually on someone’s head.
I guess I should have been offended when the young Irish priest sang “Clancy Lowered the Boom” because it is rife with Irish Catholic stereotypes. If you listened to it, you might think that all Irishmen do all day is drink and fight. I guess the reason I didn’t take offense back then was because the song seemed true enough to me. I mean, if someone had wanted to attack my Irish Catholic heritage by saying “All you people do is spend your time drinking beer and fighting,” I would probably have said, “So what’s your point?”
In today’s world, I guess I’m supposed to be offended by Irish Catholic stereotypes. But I’m not, which is a good thing because Monday is St. Patrick’s Day, and I can think of no other holiday that is built on so many stereotypes.
Take the deal about wearing green. Why do people just automatically assume that all Irish people like the color green? As a person of Irish descent, I have to tell you that I’m ambivalent at best when it comes to the color green.
Making things worse is that some people like to take the color green stereotype and combine it with another stereotype by serving green beer.
Green beer insults me on two levels. First of all, it’s gross. Second of all, get your hands off my beer.
Then there’s the leprechaun thing. In all the years I have been an Irish Catholic, I have never seen a leprechaun. Frankly, the little buggers would probably freak me out. And why do people just assume leprechauns wear those green costumes? What’s wrong with a leprechaun wearing a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and flip-flops? That’s what I would wear if I were a leprechaun.
But the worst part of St. Patrick’s Day is the bad Irish accent. Every year, we are bombarded with radio and television ads featuring people with horrible, fake Irish accents in an attempt to cash in on St. Patrick’s Day. The only place I want to hear Irish voices on radio and television commercials on St. Patrick’s Day is in Ireland. The only problem is that St. Patrick’s Day really isn’t a big deal in Ireland. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because in Ireland celebrating St. Patrick’s Day the way we do in the States would be sort of redundant. Or insulting.
Despite all of the stereotypes, I love St. Patrick’s Day. I loved it when I was a kid and would sometimes get out of school early on St. Patrick’s Day. I loved it as a single adult when I would perpetuate an Irish Catholic stereotype by spending St. Patrick’s Day in a bar. And now I love it as an old married guy.
This year, I’m going to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by making an Irish stew that calls for Guinness beer (speaking of stereotypes). And then, after dinner, I will pop in the ultimate Irish Catholic stereotype movie, “The Quiet Man,” starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.
While my wife and I watch the movie, I’ll sip a Guinness, and at some point I’m pretty sure I’ll find these lyrics running through my head: “And Clancy lowered the boom, boom, boom, boom.”
Do you have an idea for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.