I used to be a remorseless asshole when it came to the Irish diaspora because of the amount of dipshit hyphenated Americans who flouted their misunderstood past. To me you were either Irish, or you were whatever else. Never could you be both together.
Great example: two ladies I knew at Expedia, one named O’Shaughnessy, and the other who had Claddagh all the way out her asshole. The former pronounced her surname wrong, as did her siblings, parents and whole family. I shocked her with my correction.
The latter was from Texas and had Irish ancestry some way back (she didn’t know when). Claddagh ring, Claddagh tattoo, Claddagh earrings and a vague notion that Claddagh is somewhere near Dublin, but where is Dublin again?
They made me angry because here were people who played at being Irish without any sense of what Irish means. They were American beyond American, with their thick accents, weekend barbecues and Democratic party membership. I mean, I’m the son of a Claddagh man and I grew up twenty minutes away on foot. Who was she to tout her Claddagh ancestors?
Having kids abroad turned me around. Wherever you grow up is home. You’re a citizen of wherever. It’s all you’ve ever known, but to the natives, you will always and forever be a foreigner. To the country of your parents you’ll always and forever be a foreigner too. You don’t have a past and nobody around will begrudge you a present, so what do you do in your future?
It’s this forever-outsider problem that leads to extremism in the worst cases. At best it becomes a lifelong struggle to fit in. That’s where I see my kids someday if they ever come back across the Pond, and it now feels imperative to make them welcome. I understand why the children of emigrants haphazardly reach out to their ancestry, and why it is important to support them. Shock and horror, they don’t do it just to annoy the fuck out of us.
So whoever you are, whatever tiny percentage of Irish you claim: have a day.