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Erinism Anybody?

Had an epiphany of sorts the other day. I was working in the reading room of the handsome new library of the University of Texas Permian Basin (oh, that taxpayers' money!), less than a mile from where I live in Odessa. I noticed at the next table a handsome Latino youngster (I call anyone under 25 a youngster) bent over his book and calculator in a most earnest way. He was wearing a LULAC tee-shirt, and I tried to remember what that stood for.

I googled for LULAC when I got home and came up with the site of the League of Latin American Citizens. (The site uses two terms chiefly and interchangeably for its Latin American citizens, "Latino" and "Hispanic.")

I went to the "2002 LULAC Legislative Platform" page and learned, among other things, that LULAC ardently proposes that Latino citizenship applications be speeded up, that more Latinos be registered to vote, that more federal and state office holders be appointed, that more immigration be arranged for, that there be more jobs and enterprise zones established along the Mexico-U.S. border, and more federal money be provided for medicines and education and for their several LULAC centers, already receiving federal money for their work in dispensing services to Hispanics.

And so on. I do not exhaust all that LULAC wishes done. Particularly notable in the very first paragraph of the platform is a statement that LULAC "opposes discrimination of any form in the work place," and further states: "We support affirmative action as a set of positive steps that employers use to promote equal employment opportunities."

Do I hear in the background someone faintly calling out that "all are equal, but that some are more equal than others"? LULAC evidently sees no contradiction between absolute fairness and affirmative action, which would perhaps raise a question: Is there a general Latino myopia about the meaning of the words that are currently bandied about in political discourse?

Anyway, this was a college setting, and I was an aged interloper, and I sat for a while, before getting down to work, thinking about my own salad days. I started in college in 1940 and got out of it in late 1943 in the middle of an unpleasant war to save something or other, I forget what.

I was a scholarship student, and my family was barely beginning to recover from the disaster of the Great Depression, brought to us, as Murray Rothbard showed in his book, America’s Great Depression, by the marvelous Federal Reserve.

The Fed, in turn, had been brought to us by a banking cabal a couple of decades earlier, in the utterly beneficent reign of Wilson the Great, to solve all the problems of insufficient, "inelastic" money. Somehow, however, it didn't seem to be much help for those families, including mine, that took it on the financial chin in the 30s.

So it would not surprise you, I think, to learn that occasionally as I sat in Widener Library or the reading room in Boylston (this was at Harvard) that I occasionally had bad thoughts about what we now call the power elite, but I think I then thought the villain really responsible for my impoverished condition was perhaps God in one of his less pleasant manifestations. There really was no one to focus one's complaints on, or so it seemed to me.

I did observe that there were plenty of rich students. They were the Brahmins, the preppies, and they were what are now called WASPs, and some of the flashier of them had old Rolls Royce convertibles to drive that I thought gorgeous.

Now, it never occurred to me to suggest that WASPs had made it tough for the Irish. It was the other way around. I owed my scholarship and other ample financial help to the WASP establishment, now out to broaden its appeal and take on the "later comers," Irish, Jews, etc., for indoctrination into civilizational Higher Things.

Of course it took me between 25 and 35 years to realize that indeed I had been indoctrinated and subtly encouraged to forget my Irishness (and my Catholicity).

I'll forbear telling you all the troubles that ensued from that. I'll just report that I finally made it back to the Church, and at one point was so determined to advance the "Irish thing" that I thought up a campaign I called Erinism, modeled on Zionism.

Erinism was to reestablish Irish-Celtic-Christian culture; but there was the little difficulty that the fair Emerald Isle was not about to welcome back the 40-million-plus Irish now in America; so we would have to settle for a self-conscious diaspora like that of the Jews, pre-Israel.

(I wasn't so sure about reconstituting Gaelic as our language, but I thought Latin should come back to life, as the Jews had brought back Hebrew, as the lingua franca not just of Erin and its diaspora but, if possible, of all of European, formerly Christian, Man.)

I need to say before closing out this piece that I did not end by thinking that my troubles, such as they were, were caused by other people. However badly some of them may have acted, the real misery I felt was my own doing, a product of my own attitudes, of my own inner defeatism, if you will. In other words, I did not settle for seeing myself as a victim, or indeed the Irish as a victimized group, and never felt justified in mounting a Jesse-Jackson-style attack on, say, WASPs or rich people or even "the (central) bankers," a group that I admit I do have trouble remembering to include in my prayers.

February 11, 2002

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