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It started out innocuously enough.  A friend posted a link to Gail Collins' column skewering Newt Gingrich, whose patriotism apparently caused his infidelity ("The Framers made me do it?")

A couple of "likes" a nondescript favorable comment, and then it happened.  A winger jumps in with

Gee...I didn't realize the libs are so pure mmmmm...Teddy K

I jump in and we exchange a couple of predictable comments, me about the Newtster's hypocrisy, and he listing D's that have had zipper problems.  It shouldn't have been a biggie, and perhaps I should have walked away.  But I read his name, first and last, and it was unmistakeably Irish. Jaysus, Mary and Joseph!  Maybe I shouldn't have, but I went there.

Perhaps your people are from the North. Or perhaps you've forgotten about your roots.

But this time of year I am reminded that any son of the sod who would support those whose policies would leave the common man naught but an indentured servant, left to eat the grass or starve at the will of the corporate landlord for whom provisions are plentiful and shipped away for profit, is pissing on his ancestors' graves.

Well Saint Bridget save me, I take this stuff personally.  As the descendant of Irish immigrants, my family's experience is never far from me.  I've written before about some of it.  About the great grandfather who stowed away on a coffin ship to escape An Gorta Mor, the great hunger, sometime around Black forty-Seven.  The hunger that left the people so desperate that some were found dead with grass-stains on their faces.  The hunger that continued though crops other than potatoes, and livestock, were sent overseas to fill the larders of those who could pay for the imported food. the hunger that reduced the population by as much as 25%.

I've written about how his ship was turned away at the ports on the east coast, until it limped into Canada, and how he entered the US as an illegal alien (a greenback, perhaps?) before we even had immigration laws to speak of.  How it appears he served in New York's famous Fighting 69th Irish Brigade, so much cannon fodder during the civil war; and about how he and his bride, an immigrant  servant in a wealthy man's home, eventually came to Chicago, just in time to be burned out of their tenement home in the great fire.

I've mentioned my second great grandfather, Pat, born of a fifteen year old girl in Galway, who was left a grass widow by the father of her baby,whether he was an occupying soldier, a member of the landed class or just a local boy, and in desperation made her way to the disease-ridden Scotland Road area of Merseyside in the slums of Liverpool, where my great grandfather was born.  How the family had to split up for the dangerous trip across the North Atlantic, with my Great grandfather arriving the day after Christmas into the icy New York Harbor in 1859.  How Pat found the dirty and dangerous work in the mines of Scranton, PA, so unbearable that he took a wealthy man's place in the 56th PA Infantry, which fought at Fredricksburg, Vicksburg, Chancellorsville, Bull Run, Antietam and more until Pat was taken prisoner of war and sent to Andersonville Prison.  Miraculously, he survived but the damage to his persona had been done, and he lived the rest of his days known as an ugly drunk.

I've mentioned the grandfather on the other side, born just after his own parents arrived here, who learned telegraphy and was working his way up until the crash of the markets in 1929.  How he lost his job and his home, and shortly therafter, his wife, as she tried to clean the filthy windows of the third floor tenement bulding they had moved into, and fell; how as an unemployed widower left to raise a son, he lived in a series of boardinghouses and unheated porches, looking without success for work, every    single    day.  

I've written about my father, and how the GI Bill permitted him to train for the civil service exam, which led to a union job for the City of Chicago.  That job and the GI bill enabled him to buy a home, and he and my mother, who owed her college education to scholarships and my grandfather's golden rail pass (a benefit for members of the International Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers) and let them raise and educate three kids, and pay off that mortgage.  I've spoken with pride how Daddy got his fifty-five year pin from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers the day of his funeral, and will wear it with pride for all eternity.  I may have even mentioned how my stint as a Teamster during high school and college helped me put away the funds that would send me to college.  

So when I hear an Irishman defend the policies that reduce honest hardworking people to serfs in order to fatten the wallets of a few gombeen men, (and Newt Gingrich is a gombeen man if ever there was one) I can't help but wonder

Don't you know who you are?  Don't you know where you came from?  Don't you know what corporatist miseries were inflicted on your people, or how they suffered and struggled so you could have what you have today? How they were permitted no voice in the affairs that governed them, and were looked upon as second class citizens in their native land, unworthy of so much as a bite to eat unless they took the soup ?  Because if you did, you surely could not support those who inflict that kind of misery on others

And that, ladies and gentlemen, gets my Irish up.  What about you?

Originally posted to My Blue Period on Sun Mar 13, 2011 at 02:34 PM PDT.

Also republished by Personal Storytellers and Genealogy and Family History Community.

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