I was born into an Irish Catholic family. My grandparents were the first generation born over here. My O’Leary grandmother had 8 sisters, and they all had several children, so O’Leary family gatherings were raucous and fun. Even though I was an only child I never felt like one because there were all those cousins. Hanging around the great aunts, I picked up some colorful; Irish expressions they’d learned from their parents. And last night some of those terms cameinto play. Last night we got to watch two Irish-American Catholics debate each other, and the contrast couldn’t have been greater. Joe Biden is a scrapper, a bare-knuckles fighter who doesn’t pull his punches, an unabashedly working class guy who calls ‘em like he sees ‘em. Paul Ryan is what my grandmother would call “lace curtain Irish,*” which is not a term of endearment or admiration. In Ireland, until recently, the only people who could afford lace curtains (which were handmade by Irish Catholic women working with nuns in convents in Carrickmacroos and Limerick; my wedding veil was Limerich lace) were members of the Protestant Ascendancy, the great landowners who pretty much owned the country . If you aspired to lace curtains, it meant you wanted to be English, that you were getting above yourself. That’s Paul Ryan to a T, faithful follower of Ayn Rand who believed being successful made you right, worshiper of wealth and power, who never held a real job in his forty years.
Joe Biden used the term “malarkey” to describe what Paul Ryan was saying. It’s a good old Irish term that translates loosely as “bullshit.”a polite way of telling someone they are full of shit without actually saying it. He was frustrated as hell with Lace Curtain Paul who desperately want to be Mittens, with all that lovely money and all that high status, even if Mitt is a Mormon. And he called him out for it. I was rolling on the floor, laughing my ass off, because I knew precisely what her meant. Ryan’s thin-lipped attempt at a smile showed he knew precisely what Biden meant.
There are two other classic Irish terms that describe Lace Curtain Paul. The first is “gobshite”. It’s slang and means, literally translated, “shit mouth.” It is a a one word-way of telling someone that every word that falls from his lips is so much steaming cow manure. Jope was too polite to call Paul Ryan a gobshite, but I will. He’s a flat-out liar on so many issues in so many ways that I couldn’t lsit them all in a singe diary. Remember his line about the Obama administration calling al-Assad a reformer? Never happened. Hillary Clinton stated that while some senators who had visited Syria considered him a reformer, the White Hosue did not. Then there’s the whole tax question in which he’s said so many different things, one can’t keep track of them all. But when next you see Lace Curtain Paul, remember he’s a high-class gobshite.
The second term is even more insulting to Paul, and even more accurate: “gombeen man”. As most people know, for 8 centuries Ireland was owned by the English—or at last the Crown claimed it as theirs. The naive Irish didn’t appreciate that much and kept trying to gently explain their dissatisfaction to their English overlords in the form of one bloody rebellion after another. During this time period, and particularly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, most of the land was owned by titled English families who mostly preferred to live in oh-so-civilized England as absentee landlords, leaving estate managers to oversee the Irish lands that gave them much of their wealth. Many of these managers were actually Irishman, and often Catholic, and they spent their days collecting rent and demanding labor from the lord’s tenants. They preyed ont heir own people for their English bosses. The closest equivalent I can come up with would a be a Black freeman working as overseer on a plantation owned by a white southerner. Not quite the same, since the Irish were technically free to leave, and many did during the famine, but close as I can get.
Paul Ryan is a modern day gombeen man par excellence. He apes the ways of those richer and more powerful. He acts to protect their interests at the expense of the people he grew up with. He used Social Security Survivor’s Benefits to get through college, and now wants to gut Social Security for his own generation and their children. He and Mitt seem tot hink that education is only for those who can pay for it—“people have a right to as much education as they can afford” said Mitt—and they want to render the student loan program useless by privatizing it without government guarantees---leaving many working and middle class students without the hope of a college education. He regards people who’ve fallen on hard times, who use food stamps (which includes the families of many young active duty military members), who need Medicaid to survive, as moochers and takers. In fact, Atlas Shrugged seems to be his main guide to living his lfie rather than, say, the New Testament. In act the only things he actually agrees with the Catholic church on are abortion and contraception, which he’d like to ban. The Church’s strong stand against capital punishment, in favor of social justice like a living wage for workers and universal healthcare ? Not so much. In fact the bishops actually wrote a letter to his budget committee decrying the Ryan budget. Of course, they didn’t threaten to ban him from receiving communion; that’s reserved for people who are pro-choice.
There you have it. Paul Ryan, Gombeen Man. Let’s make sure his lace curtains get ripped down permanently in November.