Sunday, March 17, 2019

Saint Patrick's Day Special 2019: American Wakes and Immigrant Heroes

Reblogged from an article written in 2018

Psst, Put Down Your Green Beer And Listen Up!
Superman's An Immigrant!

Yep, you read that right. Superman is an immigrant, and so are a lot of your favorite comic creators. Try googling the word 'comics' and add any name on this prestigious list.

*Max Gaines
*Harry Donenfeld
*Martin Goodman
*John Goldwater
*Louis Silberkleit 
* Eisner 
* Kirby
*Los Bros Hernandez
* Prohias
* Perez 

You'll find that each and every name belongs to someone arriving or born to recent arrivals in America.
So why the list?
Because today is March 17, when we honor-no, not green beer-one of the greatest waves of immigration America has ever seen. In America, Saint Patrick's Day is a cultural touchstone for hundreds of thousands of Irish people and their millions of Irish-American descendents. Today we honor and remember the sacrifice they made and the struggle they endured to become part of the fabric of America. In memory of their struggle, today is a fitting day to reflect on how today's homeless and tempest-tost are treated as well.

Saint Patrick's Day is deeply personal to me. I come from a half-Irish family and speak the Irish language. I grew up without green beer, but with songs about American Wakes, pride and loss.
In the 1800s, an American Wake was a party thrown for a person leaving Ireland for the shores of New Zeland, Australia, or America. It was a wake for a living person, since their family and friends were sure never to see them again. They came seeking opportunity.
But what they often found was intense discrimination, and comic artists were part of the wrongs done against them.
Racisim against the Irish perfectly underlines the insanity that racism truly is: two people who look exactly the same to modern eyes were, in 1849 Brooklyn or anywhere in America, judged by very different standards. One was a true American, upstanding and worthy. The other was a dirty Irishman, and would never amount to anything.
Today, I wonder if we could tell their grandchildren apart. Probably not. 

It has happened again and again, too many times. In 1775 the Germans and Poles were seen as destructive influences. 
In the 1840s, the Irish were called 'filthy Catholic rats'. 
In the 1880s, the children of those immigrants turned on new settlers arriving from China. 
Today, the grandchildren of immigrants turn their rage on those from South America and the destroyed Middle East who come searching for what their own families came to find: 
a place to build a life.

So, you enjoy Saint Patrick's day? You want to honor your ancestors?

Here's an idea.
Stop putting others through what they had to endure.

If you remember the stories of your ancestors, it is your duty to help the world stop perpetuating the same suffering they endured on a new people and a new generation.
But if you are a comic reader or a comic artist, you already hold a powerful tool against the crime of dehumanizing newcomers. We can support comics like Barrier by Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente.
 You can help make sure kids who can use it get Rosita Gets Scared for free.  You can pass around The Golden Door, a comic about diverse immigrant experiences. You can tag somebody and get them to read Bleeding Cool Comic's article, Immigrants Are Welcome Here.
You can read American Born Chinese and understand how deep you can internalize self-loathing if others make it clear you are not welcome. You can read Permanent Alien to understand how high you can rise in spite of it.
And you can remember. Today is not about green beer and bad accents. Today is about a people who lost everything and arrived here desperate. By a certian orange windbag's standards, they would not be allowed into the country today.
But the Irish built our Northern cities and formed the backbone of America's industrial generation. The Chinese immigrants built our railroads and made Alaska, San Francisco and so many other American places thrive. Every group that has come has enriched our country. And every group that comes tomorrow will enrich it further.

So don't say 'Kiss me, I'm Irish' today. Say this:

Go ndéana a mhaith daoibh, a chairde.Céad míle fáilte daoibh. 

Pronnouced: Go je-nah a wah dov, a hairde. Cayd milla faltcha dov

Translated: You are welcome here, my friends. A hundred thousand welcomes to you all.