So yesterday I choose to march in a St Patrick’s Day parade in Gloucester City (NJ). No, it’s not my holiday. I am neither Irish nor Catholic and, in fact, I marched in orange, not in deference the Ulsters but rather in my 43rd Regimental as a British soldier. As I was preparing to go, I got a surprising inquiry from my wife… “Why did you agree to march in that parade?” It’s a fair question.
Let’s start with the simple answer. It was 1NJV. Now for those of you who don’t know the 1NJV (my apologies), This is a group that never seems to fail to have a really good time and exhibit the best qualities in the living history community. They are well educated but not arrogant, they are traditional but inclusive, they are a top-notch outfit in the British Brigade and yet egalitarian. When they call, I only defer if I cannot attend for previous commitments. I was free on Sunday so dressed out. But my wife knew this so her question was more about St Patrick’s Day.
Now in case you have been living under a rock, lets recap the history of St Patrick’s Day. Saint Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick is a cultural and religious celebration honoring death of the foremost patron saint of Ireland. Patrick was a 5th-century Romano-British Christian missionary and Bishop in Ireland. It is believed that he was born in Roman Britain in the fourth century, into a wealthy family. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest in the Christian church. He was purportedly kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland when he was about sixteen and spent six years there working as a shepherd before he was able to flee to the coast and return to his home. After making his way home, Patrick went into the priesthood before returning to Ireland to “drive the snakes out” (convert the pagan Irish to Christianity). Patrick was burned at the stake on 17 March 461 at Downpatrick by the not so appreciative pagan authorities. Yep, St. Patrick’s Day is 100% a religious festival so why would a Jew (even one in British uniform) march in a parade celebrating St Patrick? Well in a word, TOLERANCE.
Tolerance as a trait is something most people would assume innate to themselves and I sincerely doubt anyone declare themselves to be intolerant but in a week when the former “asshole in chief” addressed CPAC, spewing hate speech, I thought it was important to take a stand. It’s one thing to wax lyrical about our high-mindedness and love of everyone but over the last ten years, in an age where we live in a world of increasingly self-affirming isolation, most of us have become like Archie Bunker – not OVERTLY racist or xenophobic, but certainly not welcoming and embracing of ideas and cultures that are different from our own. We aren’t the bastions of forbearance we like to think we are. Americans have become a divided society and these divisions are the cesspits that breed hatred and rage.
The “snakes” aren’t pagan, they’re fascist. We must, as Americans, go out and actively rebuild the “melting pot” of our society. We must learn to celebrate EVERYONE and EVERYTHING good and wholesome in our society regardless of its origin, creed, nationality, or social condition. That’s how we build back our nation and return to the promise of our Declaration: “all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”