Like any college aged person, my room is well-decorated. However, my decorations are a little different then what you might expect. My collection includes a V for Vendetta poster, a Gadsen flag, an End the Drug War poster, and a Jolly Rodger. However, there is one piece that will always stand out for me more then the rest. Near my desk, hangs the flag of the 69th New York Infantry Regiment, better known as the “Fighting 69th” which was part of the Irish Brigade during the American Civil War.
It may seem ironic that a passionate antiwar activist would have the flag of a military regiment hanging in his room. Is that not a confirmation of militarism, nationalism and unfounded patriotism? Not for me.
For me, this flag represents another story — one of principled patriotism, tolerance and activism. It’s the story that gives me a historical, political, cultural background for my work as an activist. It’s one worth revisiting now.
The history of immigration and assimilation in America is a complicated one fraught with discrimination and fear. Many waves of immigrants have lived through this cycle, but for me, the Irish experience has particular relevance: My family is mostly blue-collar Irish Catholics, based in and around New York. My father was born in New York City, but lived in both NY and Ireland. My grandfather was born in Ireland and later drove a fuel truck that was used to power the cranes that built the World Trade Center. My great-grandfather lived in New York City in the early 20th century and served in the United States Army during the First World War as an infantryman. Their hard work and dedication not only helped build our country, but gave me many of the values I still hold today. Unfortunately, life in America was not always easy for them. (more…)