Hate Me, I'm Irish

In early September, the front page of the New York Times featured a terrible image: people were throwing rocks and hurling insults at girls trying to get to their school in Belfast. While I'm no theologian, I was raised in the Catholic Church and now belong to an Episcopal parish. I don't know of anything in Roman or Anglican doctrine that justifies adults attacking young girls on their way to school. Didn't Christ teach His followers to turn the other cheek and forgive their neighbors seven times seventy and suffer the little children unto Him? My memory can be faulty at times, but I'm pretty sure I didn't make that part up.

I don't know anything about Islam, but by all authoritative accounts it's a peaceful religion. Still, its teachings can be twisted by people who are too filled with hate to love God and each other, in the same way that many Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland have chosen to twist or ignore their own religion's teachings.

Too many good and loyal Americans have decided that if they take their frustrations out on other Americans who happened to be of the Islamic faith or Middle-Eastern ancestry, then all the horrors of September 11 will be avenged. That's bad news for all of us whose ancestors came from complicated places - in other words, just about all of us.

My last name, although not obviously so, is Irish. My father's ancestors were starved out of Ireland over 150 years ago. They immigrated to the United States, where their descendants have thrived. Some people from my ancestral homeland, possibly distant cousins, are among the most ruthless terrorists on earth. The Irish Republican Army and its various factions have kneecapped, bombed, and murdered the guilty and the innocent in pursuit of a united country. Despite their well-publicized bad behavior, I have never been subjected to abuse or torment from others because of the IRA's activities.

Sure, the war isn't happening in my country, but it's no big secret that many Americans of Irish descent provide moral and financial support to the terrorists. Still, no one is killing gas station attendants whose last names start with Mc or O, harassing people with red hair in grocery stores, or driving their cars into bars serving Guinness Stout. To the extent I've ever been harassed for being Irish, it's for not being Irish enough: I don't believe that God made Notre Dame number one, for example, and I think that "The Lord of the Dance" is kind of silly.

In the past week, I've heard people say that it is right to condemn Islamic people because their religion teaches hate and that Americans from the Middle East are probably giving aid and comfort to the terrorists. I believe that what happened in New York and Washington is terribly wrong, and I think terrorism is an unjust way to wage war. But I worry that Americans who hate Arabs will start hating me the next time there's some atrocity in Northern Ireland. And when I see that Americans are taking out their aggressions against other Americans, I wonder who is next. I don't think that Americans whose families came from Europe, Africa, or Asia are to blame for the genocides that occurred in Germany, Rwanda, and Cambodia; do you?