​An Irish welcome for St. Patrick's Day

Tuesday is Saint Patrick's Day -- a day of celebration, to be sure, but also one of excess and exclusion, in the opinion of Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen:

When we were kids, there was no question among my cousins about our favorite holiday. It was St. Patrick's Day -- parade day in South Boston.

My Uncle Johnny and Aunt Kay lived on the parade route, and they opened their home not just to family, but to friends and friends of friends.

There were cold cuts and cole slaw and green cupcakes.

My Aunt Kay was the nicest lady in the world and welcomed everybody -- even strangers.

It was only as I got older that I realized how much booze had become such an insidious part of the parade. People got loaded, threw up on their shoes, peed on the sidewalks.

I mention this only because there has been, for much of my life, a ludicrous debate over what the parade is about and who is allowed to march.

For a quarter-century, the veterans group that organizes the parade resisted attempts by openly-gay marchers to take part.

Twenty years ago, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that the parade organizers have the right to say who marches.

But having a right doesn't make you right.

As for the contention by organizers that the parade is primarily about honoring veterans and celebrating Irish heritage?

Please.

The first thing you see on the parade's official website is a link directing you to bars where you can celebrate your Irish heritage and our brave vets by having a few cold ones.

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CBS News

There was always something petty and anachronistic about this whole squabble and the politics of exclusion. If anybody should show solidarity with people who might be shunned or derided for being nothing more than themselves, it's the Boston Irish, who faced institutional discrimination for generations after arriving on famine ships in the 1840s.

If anybody should recoil at the prospect of being unfairly stereotyped as a group, it's people in Southie, who were lumped together with the racist thugs who threw rocks at school buses carrying black kids in the 1970s.

Gay people have been marching openly in St. Patrick's Day parades in Ireland for decades. This year, for the first time, gay veterans will march openly in Boston, the capital of Irish America.

It's about time.

I only wish my Aunt Kay was still alive, so she could sing that old song she always did when her house was full of green cupcakes and equally-cherished friends and strangers: "If You're Irish, Come Into the Parlor, There's a Welcome There for You!"


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