St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2018: Pride and Tolerance

If you had the luck of the Irish

You’d be sorry and wish you were dead…

When John Lennon sang those biting lyrics in 1972, he was lamenting how the Irish suffered for decades under British rule and oppression. In the mid 19th century, the potato famine drove more than a million starving Irish from their homeland, seeking a better life in America.

Not that the Irish were in clover when they landed here. Newspaper classified ads read “No Irish need apply.” They were quickly branded as dirty, animalistic criminals stealing the jobs of real Americans. Sound familiar?

Cut to 2018. On Saturday, the Irish will march proud and free down 5th Avenue, in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, with millions watching and cheering on the sidelines and TV.

Organizers have grown more tolerant over the years, finally allowing a gay group to march under its own banner in 2015. While some hailed the decision, others grumbled, including Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, who called it “contemptible.” The parade continues to become more inclusive, despite complaints from those for whom tolerance seems to be a dirty word.

“The St. Patrick’s Day parade is a New York City tradition, but for years Irish LGBT New Yorkers could not show their pride,” said Bill de Blasio, who as mayor boycotted the parade until 2016. “Finally they can celebrate their heritage by marching in a parade that now represents progress and equality.”

The spirited and hopefully peaceful parade, which dates back to 1762, will run from 11 a.m. through 5 p.m., and can be viewed from 44th to 79th Streets on 5th Avenue.

For the Irish, as well as women, gays, immigrants and those of all religions and colors, the words of John F. Kennedy, our first Irish-Catholic president, still ring true: “I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience…The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.”

Or as Lennon sang: If you could keep voices like flowers

There’d be shamrock all over the world.

Sounds like a plan. Enjoy the parade!

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One Response to St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2018: Pride and Tolerance

  1. Miquelot says:

    To your credit, Mr. Vogel, you write “finally allowing a gay group to march under its own banner,” which has always been at “the heart of the question.” Many columnists and editorials set up straw arguments by omitting this fact, misstating that “Irish LGBT New Yorkers” were banned from marching. Untrue – the parade rules ban was on banners identifying them as a separate group.

    Regardless of one’s agreement or disagreement of the rules then or the rules now, accuracy in journalism – even opinion journalism – still counts, so thank you for that.
    Of course what remains unaddressed is what will happen when an unpopular group wants to march under their own banner (political, sexual, or otherwise). If one is permitted, should not all be allowed? Everyone is entitled to march, but with the current state of the nation as balkanized as it is, an honest even-handedness and consistency on this issue will be more important than ever before.

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