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Showing posts from 2023

Irish Nationalism in America

                        Irish Nationalism in America In the most recent United States Census almost eleven million people identify as born in Ireland or of Irish origin. This is a multi-generational record reflecting how current citizens think of their ethnic background.   Except for refugees who are always identified by their country of origin, a person’s family lineage is no longer deemed as significant as in the past. In 1960, John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s Irish Catholic background was seen as pivotal to his candidacy for the White House, and he won over 90% of the votes in his own ethnic constituency. The Irish Catholic credentials of the current president, Joseph Biden, are at least as strong as JFK’s but in the last election his support fell below 50%. By the turn of the 20 th century the 4.8 million people, either Irish-born or of Irish parentage living in America, had improved their social status significantly. They had achieved relative occupational parity in most employmen

Poverty and Morality in America

 v       Poverty and Morality in America        Gerry O’Shea Americans are renowned as pragmatic men and women who have led the world in getting things done. They are practical people who focus less on theorizing and concentrate instead on achieving visible results. According to this narrative, Europeans strut their leadership in the areas of great art and literature, but they are behind in the world of business led by the aggressive economic strategies nurtured by Wall Street. From this philosophical perspective, nothing can be deemed true unless it is seen to work. For the pragmatist results define success in all dimensions of living.   What does this approach reveal about the problem of poverty in America? How do our results in this crucial area compare to other developed countries?   From this pragmatic perspective Americans are trailing all western European countries in their meagre efforts to ameliorate the situation of millions of poor people living in dire circumstances

Pope Francis' Synod

                                 Pope Francis’ Synod                Gerry OShea Every major document emanating from the Vatican has a Latin title, and the most recent one dealing with the upcoming synod, scheduled to start on October 3 rd, is named Instrumentum Laboris (IL). This is the official appellation for an important 60-page booklet containing a summary of the results of a 3-year consultative process involving Catholics throughout the world. The synod booklet asks serious questions about the mesmerizing allure of power and how that played out in the structures that evolved in the Catholic Church. For centuries the church has been a patriarchy with men making all the big decisions about its rules and dogmas. Successive popes aided by male appointees in the various departments in the Vatican and with a minor role for local bishops callrd all the shots. Until recently, everybody understood that in any controversy Rome had the final say. It is a top-heavy organization with

Child Rearing in Ireland in the 20th Century

 Child Rearing in 20th Century Ireland       Gerry OShea  It is a truism accepted in most cultures that children thrive in a supportive family and in a community where they feel valued and encouraged. The old Irish adage “mol an oige agus tiocfaidh se” (praise young people and they will blossom) contains  important wisdom from the ancient Celts. However, for most of the 20th century in Ireland, this advice in Shakespeare’s words  was “more honored in the breach than in the observance.” There were two important considerations that underpinned Irish child-rearing practices throughout most of the last century. First, contraceptives were not available until late in the 1980’s mainly because of opposition by the Catholic Church, so big families were an important feature of Irish life. Think of parents in a crowded house rearing eight or ten kids and obliged to maintain order in the family. Anyone who stepped out of line would likely be slapped or otherwise physically reprimanded. According

The Need for Strong Trade Unions in America

  The Need for Strong Trade Unions in America        Gerry OShea In John Lennon’s fine album titled “Working Class Hero” he bemoans the betrayal of the American working class, “duped by religion, sex and TV” into believing the myth that they, above people in any other country, live in the land of the free and the home of the brave where every man and woman can join the elite. On the same theme of workers’ abandonment in England, “The Red Flag,” the idealistic anthem of the British Labour Party, invites a cynical response from some party supporters that matches Lennon’s bleak words about American capitalist culture. The working class can kiss my ass, I’ve got the foreman’s job at last. Adolph Wagner, a famous German 19 th century economist assessed the burgeoning industrial revolution underway in those years and foresaw good times ahead driven by what is now called “Wagner’s Law” which confidently predicts that when countries get richer people always get better salaries and m
  Muslims in America             Gerry OShea The four current Muslim members of congress are all Democrats. Last year, one of them, Ilhan Omar, unwisely engaged in antisemitic tropes while legitimately lambasting the Israeli Government for its maltreatment of Palestinians, a position with wide support among Americans concerned with human rights. Democrats immediately condemned her flirtation with antisemitism, and she quickly backed down and apologized unreservedly. Kevin McCarthy and other Republican leaders rightly excoriated her for her extreme views and tried to portray her opinions as typical of a far-left coterie of Democratic members of congress, without providing any evidence for that contention.   Amazingly, Republican leaders have shown no outrage at their many members who openly identify with the Christian nationalist movement which, in blatant contradiction to the American constitution, would consign members of non-Christian religions to second-class status in America

The Lundy Principle in Northern Ireland

          The Lundy Principle in Northern Ireland     Gerry OShea In times of crisis, unionism still reverts to the Lundy principle and the predictable rhetoric it entails. In the siege of Derry in 1688 the Catholic forces of the recently deposed James 11 surrounded the largely Protestant city. Its governor, Robert Lundy, wanted to negotiate a surrender because he was convinced that they didn’t have the resources to withstand the siege. Thirteen apprentice boys bravely defied him and asserted their leadership of the dire situation. The siege lasted 105 days. Derry’s inhabitants were reduced to eating dogs “fattened on the flesh of the slain Irish”, as well as horses and rats. Fever swept through the city and multiple thousands died, but the defiant cry of no surrender empowered the protectors of the city until they were relieved by the army of the new king, William of Orange.   Every year in the month of July the Orange Order, led by proud modern Apprentice Boys, celebrates tha

Guns in America

  Guns in America               Gerry OShea I had a surprising encounter with an Irish woman named Maura last week. She is married and living with her husband – also Irish – in a town in Northern New Jersey. They both work in the city, she as an executive with an insurance company and he as a public high school teacher in Manhattan. They have three children under five, two boys and a girl. Their living arrangements include paying an au pair who hails from Mexico and who fits in very well with the family. Their older son will start in their local elementary school this September. She shared with me that her own salary is more than double her husband’s, but she added that his excellent family health coverage, generous pension arrangements and long vacations go a long way to compensate for his paltry monthly cheque. Overall, she described their situation as financially secure, enjoying a satisfactory standard of living and with nourishing roots in the New Jersey community where they


Armageddon  Gerry OShea End-of-time scenarios are part of the Judeo-Christian narrative. Evangelical Christians expect a final showdown, a great battle between the godly forces of righteousness and the multitude of the damned representing the world’s depravities with Satan himself slouching around prompting rebellion and promoting hatred and pillage. The prophet Daniel who lived a few hundred years before Christ is deemed to have foreseen the massive destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD as an absolutely horrendous event. Some of the early Christian writers felt that only the Latin language could adequately convey the enormity of his vision: abominatio desolationis stans in loco sancto – abomination of desolation standing in the holy place is the rather pallid English translation. In later centuries - right up to the present - Daniel’s fierce words are used by some theologians and preachers to predict impending disasters that can only be understood in payoff terms where sinners would get t

The 2023 All-Ireland Football Final

  The 2023 All-Ireland Football Final          Gerry OShea Monaghan and Derry had nearly all the support of unconnected football followers in their recent semi-final clashes with Dublin and Kerry. Outsiders knocking at the door will always have neutrals cheering for them. The Monaghan men acquitted themselves well but they had no answer to the late blitzkrieg of scores by Fenton, McCaffrey, Mannion and Rock. In the other semi-final the Kerry road to victory was very different with a much closer result after an enthralling game revealing high-level footballing skills by both sides. The Derry forwards were buzzing in the first half and kicking wonderful points from distance, leaving them ahead by three points at the break. The second-half introduction of Stephen O’Brien was a pivotal move by Jack O’Connor, the Kerry manager. He accounted for two vital turnovers as well as kicking a fine point and winning a dubious free which led to another. Still, Derry was ahead by two points with

Transgender Issues in America

  Transgender Issues in America           Gerry OShea The name Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (SPI) appeared in recent news reports and, understandably, drew guffaws from many observers. The title is a spoof on religious orders who sometimes work with unwieldy names.   The SPI members who come mostly from the queer and transgender communities dress in technicolor habits and, like so many real Sisters, they collect money to help poor and marginalized groups who have benefited by about $1.5 million since their foundation in 1979. These make-up Sisters achieved a degree of fame recently when the Los Angeles Dodgers invited, uninvited and finally re-invited them to the club’s annual gay-pride night game where they received the Community Hero Award for their charitable work. The baseball team management was justifiably criticized by some Catholics who resented the use of nuns’ garb to gain notoriety for their cause. Others, including some real Sisters, who share their concern about