My mother’s family were all Keenans and O’Connells, Irish as Irish could be and generally proud enough of it to make it known to whoever would listen. We made a couple of trips to Ireland, in 1985 and 1993, including a visit to Daniel O’Connell’s grave. This was particularly interesting for a couple of reasons.
The first is that, like many venerated figures from history (we’re discussing the Irish Liberator here), the story behind the man is terribly interesting and not as unambiguous as what was presented to me in my youth. Mr. O’Connell really did oppose the union of Great Britain and Ireland and worked for the rights of Catholics to sit in Parliament, but it seems he was also a bit of a high lifer and not uninterested in forwarding the cause of Daniel O’Connell along with that of the downtrodden Irish. The Wikipedia article on him is enough to whet my appetite (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_O%27Connell).
The second part of this, the part that leads to an observation or two about John Kerry, and possibly about his Canadian counterpart, John Baird, is that our friends in County Sligo, including Bert, who hailed from Galway, were given to telling us myriad Kerryman jokes. The Irish are constantly the butt of jokes in England relating to mental feebleness, laziness, maladresse and a panoply of sins. Of course the Irish have to have someone as the butt of their jokes: rather than going abroad, they chose the men of Kerry in the far southwest corner of the Isle to stand as the object of their humour. So it turns out that the Liberator/Emancipator was from Carhirsiveen, a burg on the way out to the tip of the Ring of Kerry at Derry Nane. He was, therefore, a Kerryman through and through.
So…I caught a bit of a presser featuring Kerry and Baird and was horrified to hear Kerry mispronounce Kazakhstan and refer to the Prime Minister of Mexico in doing something of an imitation of the man to whom he lost the 2004 election (not lost if you follow the writings of the ever-incendiary Greg Palast). It isn’t that I miss Hilary (I winced at her platitudes and lies), but to come out of the gate so weakly hardly inspires confidence that the world is heading into calmer waters with Kerry at the helm. The fact that he chose to meet with Baird before getting to some of the other bagatelles that confront American “diplomacy” speaks more to the fossil fuel lobby than to any sentiment that Canada is really such a good pal. I have to say, too, that I tend to see in Mr. Baird an air of someone just arrived from a frat party. He has a ready tongue and an aggressive and overbearing demeanour that admits no debate. Should we be surprised when an appointee of this nature, one Patrick Brazeau, steps over the line? Was his role to be the First Nations representation in a party that militates to erase any distinction for First Nations and to remove all political and environmental barriers to unbridled exploitation of Canada’s resources? Whatever it was, and whatever Baird, Van Loan, Toews, Flaherty, Ambrose, MacKay, Kent and the like may say, the joke is mostly on us, the citizens of Canada from all ethnic backgrounds. Is what the current bunch in Ottawa doing to First Nations so different from what the English did in Ireland? Always worth a thought in passing.