The Battle at Harry’s Bar. I’m not sure who won. Yes, we got our tables and were able to enjoy a lovely meal. But in that exchange I lost something. My warrior didn’t just show up, she showed up with all the cultural conditioning I try to leave at home. My US home.
There is now a lovely ritual of having dinner with dear friends Aisling and Felim the night before I head back to the States. Felim has long declared me to be Irish and again this time as I was departing he asked when I was going to come home again. Home to Ireland. While I now live in both places most of the time, I am really called to embrace the Irish way no matter where I am. For that way has much to offer us.
Wandering Galway’s busy walking street or any other heavily touristed place in Ireland, I can easily spot Americans. Beyond the distinctive clothing – all the more so if they’ve been in country long enough to acquire an all-shamrock wardrobe – I can tell by the way we Americans hold ourselves. Especially whites. Especially men. We hold an attitude that so reflects our culture and cultural conditioning. It’s an attitude of privilege, confidence, and all too often arrogance. It’s an attitude of entitlement.
Unlike Ireland our nation has not been invaded, our people subjugated or enslaved. We have not had our language, land, homes, faith, music, employment, education, and even dress taken from us. There is a humility that comes with all of that and we don’t have it. I find it so astounding that the discourse here in the States is so often filled with the issue of entitlement and that the finger is pointed at the poor and disenfranchised. And when I consider who’s doing the complaining it’s generally white males who clearly consider themselves solely entitled to the spoils of capitalism. The spoils of what they have accumulated, often at the expense of the disenfranchised.
When we Americans travel to Ireland with our cultural conditioning it can manifest in our demeanor, attitude, and actions. This not only feeds a growing world view of Americans as demanding and arrogant, it prevents us from being open and present to the Irish culture. It’s our loss. Stepping into a culture that is more humble, gentle, and gracious is a major reason I lead tours to Ireland. The Irish have so much to teach us about being in right relationship in community if we are willing to step beyond ourselves.
And this is why I consider myself the loser in the Battle of Harry’s Bar. In that moment I reverted to my cultural conditioning. I’m not happy about that. Next time I’m leaving my sword home.
Judith – firstname.lastname@example.org