14 March 2008

The War on St. Patrick's Day, or: My Apologies in Advance

Did you ever have one of those moments where you can't resist causing mischief, not because you're feeling angry or mean-spirited, but simply because you feel mischievous? When a spirit of play possesses you without regard for consequences, simply in the hope of amusement? Well, the moment hit me this morning when I walked into Citizens' Bank to deposit my paycheck. The place was decorated for the festive weekend, with paperboard shamrocks hanging from the ceiling. I had to wait in line for a moment, so my eyes fell upon the novel decorations, and I did a double-take.

Inscribed upon the shamrocks was the motto: "Happy Shamrock Day."

Was that possible? Could someone really have done something so dumb? Did they really just open up another front in the "war on Christmas? Is someone really waging that war? They all had to be kidding, and I wanted to burst out laughing at the absurdity of what I'd seen. Mind you, I'm as secularly humanist as anybody, so on principle and personal preference I have no problem with "Happy Shamrock Day." But now I know how a shock-jock feels, because I knew that this would enrage some people, and I knew that their rage would be funny. In fact, I knew specific people whom I could guarantee to be enraged....

* * *
When I first saw Mr. Right this afternoon he was arguing with Mr. Peepers. The latter had been reading to him from a recent letters page of the Albany Times Union, from before Governor Spitzer resigned. As I remembered, many writers were upset at the prospect of Spitzer's departure; they thought there was a double standard at work. To summarize: why should Spitzer have to resign over having sex with a prostitute when George W. Bush hasn't been compelled to resign for lying to get us into war, murdering thousands of Iraqis, waterboarding, etc.
Mr. Peepers feels toward Mr. Right all the time the way I was feeling today. He seems less interested in somehow converting Mr. Right to liberalism than in making him angry, and in that he succeeded.
"So you think President Bush should resign but Spitzer shouldn't have?" Mr. Right sneered.
"Well, what did Spitzer do wrong?"
"He broke the law! He violated the Mann Act!"
"Aww, nobody's been prosecuted for that in decades."
"No, all that matters to you is the letter that comes after their names! As long as it's a D they can't do any wrong, but if it's an R then they're criminals!"
Here I commiserated with Mr. Right. My view, and that of the Institute, is that Spitzer should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Once it was us against Mr. Peepers, he slunk away. It was time to change the subject.
"Hey, have you heard anything on the radio or on conservative websites about St. Patrick's Day displays?"
"No, what do you mean?"
I then told him what I saw at Citizens' Bank.
"You've got to be kidding me," Mr. Right responded, "What are they trying to do, deny that the man even existed? Un-f***ing-believable!"
Mr. Peepers then passed through again.
"This is what you're people are doing!" Mr. Right yelled at him.
"Are you sure nobody's talked about this anywhere in the media?" I asked again. He couldn't recall and didn't think so.
I then gave him an escape hatch. "Could it possibly be because the people at Citizens' Bank are actually observant Catholics and they know that they're not actually supposed to celebrate St. Patrick's this year because it falls in Holy Week?" He didn't buy it because he figured that Church fathers, in this country at least, would give dispensations for the annual festivities. While we agreed that we couldn't necessarily infer a trend from one incident, he seemed inclined to believe that secular humanism was again on the march, and he was arguably more annoyed than when I found him.
* * *
I did a Google search before raising the subject with Mr. Right and there was barely any mention of a "war on St. Patrick's" Search for "Happy Shamrock Day" yourself and you'll mostly see sites that sell stuff so labeled. So if you start hearing about it over the next week, it may well be that all the fuss started here. That's why I offer an apology in advance, but it was just too good to resist. How often do you get the chance to start a hoax based entirely on fact?

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