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September 23, 2002
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So that woman on video beating her child... WAIT! Don't delete this yet. Something I found interesting was that at least one news article mentioned that she was an Irish Traveller. Apparently there are ten thousand Irish Travellers in the USA but little is known about them academically , as a result, they have developed a rather negative stereotype, primarily as con artists and scammers. Probably one of the only nomadic groups left in modern times, these gypsies are a discriminated race in native Ireland.
posted by dirtylittlemonkey (91 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
As I recall, the Irsih Traveller conection was discussed in the earlier thread on this beating. pzarquon posted this link. There werw other refs and links about the Travellers later in the same thread.
posted by Ayn Marx at 8:12 AM on September 23, 2002


From what I know, gypsies aren't looked at too fondly anywhere.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:13 AM on September 23, 2002


I learned all about them from the mediocre Traveller movie. Has some interesting references to the Brogue and the "oil on the driveway" scam.
posted by destro at 8:14 AM on September 23, 2002


Irish Travellers... have developed a rather negative stereotype...

Well, the fact that Ms Toogood is a traveller certainly doesn't help the stereotype. The Irish have enough to contend with already, what with the stereotypes gleefully perpetuated by Irish Americans.
posted by Shane at 8:20 AM on September 23, 2002


Didn't the movie Snatch have "Irish Travellers" in it?
posted by Stuart_R at 8:23 AM on September 23, 2002


Those were pikers. I don't know if there's a connection (or if it's a slang word for them). I'm willing to wager "yes", but can't say for sure.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:26 AM on September 23, 2002


Didn't the movie Snatch have "Irish Travellers" in it?

I was going to mention Snatch may have helped and hurt the stereotype of Travellers or "Pikeys." Snatch made good comic use of the Pikey brogue, which Brad Pitt did damn well:

"D'yelike dags?"
"What?!"
"D'yelike dags?"
"What?!"
"DAGS, I said!"
posted by Shane at 8:28 AM on September 23, 2002


Travellers, jews, pikeys, fags, yanks, limeys, carnies,
posted by dash_slot- at 8:30 AM on September 23, 2002


Polacks, frogs, krauts, towelheads, a-rabs, coons, niggers,
posted by dash_slot- at 8:31 AM on September 23, 2002


Eye-ties, spics, wops, injuns, pakis, goons, chinks, abos
posted by dash_slot- at 8:32 AM on September 23, 2002


I think Snatch had 'Pikeys' which were just Celtic, rather than specifically Irish. Young Brad had a good authentic traveller accent though.

To be honest, Traveller's tended to bring a lot of bad PR. on themselves. Certainly, there were news stories in the Irish papers regularly of stabbings at wakes and funerals, and the travellers who were on a plane to America and defecated on their seat due to a perceived slight by a flight attendant didn't really help matters.

There is endemic racism against the travelling community in Ireland though.
posted by Swandive at 8:33 AM on September 23, 2002


Chimps, monkeys, gorillas, orang-utans, homo sapiens
posted by dash_slot- at 8:38 AM on September 23, 2002


Other films featuring gypsies (Pikey or otherwise)? Chocolat springs to mind. Also The Field deals somewhat with the importance of land to the historically agrarian Irish, and perhaps some of the reasons for the Irish bias against gypsies who have no land of their own
posted by Shane at 8:38 AM on September 23, 2002


So these aren't like those New Age Travellers", or what? They seem rather hippish... not my stereotype of child abusers.
posted by cx at 8:39 AM on September 23, 2002


Thanks for the original links ... I was wondering about the "Irish Travelers" reference as well. Now I'm puzzling how the lifestyle is perpetuated among "Travelers of Irish-American descent".
posted by bclark at 8:43 AM on September 23, 2002


Gypsies (and travellers, generically) face undiminished discrimination in modern Europe.

the latest research indicates that the original Gypsies were a mix of Indian ethnic groups assembled in the early 11th century as a military force to resist Islamic incursions. Romany developed in India as a military lingua franca with heavy Persian influences, as did Urdu; the Romany word for a non-Gypsy, gadje, is derived from the Hindi word gajjha, meaning civilian. The first record of Gypsies in the west is in Constantinople in 1054; their first appearance in Europe proper came as military attachments to Ottoman armies. “The fact they were mistaken for Muslims”, Mr Hancock ruefully notes, “set the stage for anti-Gypsyism."

Gypsies became nomads, they claim, because of laws barring them from living in cities (though probably there was a vicious cycle involved). They suffered slavery, and have their own word for the Holocaust, porramous, which means "the devouring". Shudder. The relationship of Irish Travellers to Roma remains uncertain, but it seems likely they are heavily-assimilated Roma. I wonder if any DNA testing has been done to track the claims.
posted by dhartung at 8:44 AM on September 23, 2002


More on the traveller/tinker ethnicity question.
posted by dhartung at 8:46 AM on September 23, 2002


Oh, damn. Forget that. You scroll down, it's some kind of RPG classification.
posted by dhartung at 8:47 AM on September 23, 2002 [1 favorite]


Movie-wise, not forgetting Traveller.
posted by bradlands at 8:50 AM on September 23, 2002


New Age Travellers

Anyone have any other links on this movement? I remember in the '80s there seemed to be a lot of young people in the UK who were not traditionally gypsies, but who adopted a nomadic lifestyle in a loose association of hippyish caravans. Lots of people camping out in vans is what it really amounted to. I think there was a big huge retreat place up in Scotland? Was it called the Pagan Nation back then or something?

Roma -- Yes, I guess Roma is the preferred name for the Gypsies of Europe (especially eastern Europe?), who trace their ancestry to India. Roma has its own language, but it is not usually spoken by gypsies of Ireland.
posted by Shane at 8:52 AM on September 23, 2002


[ Looks up with some amusement ]

Brad Pitt set back the cause of pikeys several decades. Though not as much as these people, acquittal or no acquittal. Or Jade Goody's mother.
posted by riviera at 8:53 AM on September 23, 2002


Brad Pitt set back the cause of pikeys several decades.

Except for the fact that he's Brad Pitt, adored by impressionable young women across the globe. At this point he could probably even help the current image of Islamic fundamentalists, just by playing one sympathetically in a film. The cult of stardom...
posted by Shane at 8:58 AM on September 23, 2002


That's really weird, because I came across this paper recently dealing with the discrimination heaped on gypsies and was going to post it with the question -

Why does everyone seem to hate gypsies?'

Are we scared of people who move around without ties and responsibilities?
posted by Duug at 8:58 AM on September 23, 2002


Hmm ... I remember reading repeated references to Jade being "half-caste". Does this mean that just having a traveller parent makes you non-white in British eyes?

It seems as if British racial labels are distinct from North American ones in several other ways. For example, isn't "black" used as a descriptor for anyone who is African, Afro-Caribbean or South Asian? Only the first two choices match usage on this side of the ocean.
posted by maudlin at 9:06 AM on September 23, 2002


A few more links:

Fact And Fiction About Irish Travellers in the U.S.A.

The Never-ending Road American Gypsy (Roma) & Travellers

Exchange House Travellers Service

Designations for Travellers
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:15 AM on September 23, 2002


hehe on dhartung.
posted by tolkhan at 9:15 AM on September 23, 2002


There seems to be a very hands off approach to them here in the UK as far as the police are concerned. Irish Travellers regularly invade private land and set up camp until a court order by the land-owner can be served on them. The site is often left looking like a bombsite, with used gas bottles, sofas, tyres, garbage and such like as a reminder of their 'visit'.

The problem seems to be that if politicians or the police take direct action against them, they scream discrimination and minority group. Although there are proposals to sort this out! In the UK we currently spend £18,000,000 a year on this problem.

As for the comment: The Irish have enough to contend with already, what with the stereotypes gleefully perpetuated by Irish Americans. Is someone really an American if they feel the need to hyphenate their nationality?
posted by DrDoberman at 9:16 AM on September 23, 2002


Half of America identifies as "Irish," it's like being "ethnic" but still getting to be white.
posted by hob at 9:27 AM on September 23, 2002


The american branch of the Irish Travellers deserves their bad reputation, because they are scammer and con-artists. They are notorious for pulling scams like passing themselves off as contractors and taking money and not rendering services as well as numerous smaller scale restaurant and retail related cons.
posted by monkeyman at 9:40 AM on September 23, 2002


Half of America identifies as "Irish"...

I hear you hob, that sort of explains why Irish terrorists received so many dollars of support from US 'fund raisers'. Of course that was before terrorism went out of fashion stateside :)
posted by DrDoberman at 9:41 AM on September 23, 2002


I remember reading repeated references to Jade being "half-caste". Does this mean that just having a traveller parent makes you non-white in British eyes?

No: that's because Jade's dad is black. And her mother isn't really 'pikey', more 'pikey-ey', just as Jonathan Miller called himself 'Jew-ish'. 'Half-caste' is interesting, though, as standard press style is now 'mixed race' (and only when it's of primary significance to the story) but I know people happy to call themselves half-caste.

It seems as if British racial labels are distinct from North American ones in several other ways. For example, isn't "black" used as a descriptor for anyone who is African, Afro-Caribbean or South Asian?

Not really: 'black' is for black Africans and Afro-Caribbeans, as the majority of black Britons trace their origins back through voluntary immigration from the Caribbean after WW2. (So it's really funny when Americans try identifying the race of black Britons along the lines of 'African-American'. They get to 'African-' and stop.) And 'Asian' usually means 'South Asian'.
posted by riviera at 9:49 AM on September 23, 2002


Some Irish travellers are descendendants of poor tenants evicted from their farms in the 19th century and who never found roots anywhere else, which has led to them and their descendants wandering the country ever since. Many of these have Irish names and are as ethnically Irish as any "settled" Irish citizen.

There have been attempts made by travellers to be classified as being of a different ethnic group, and in some cases this is true (ie, they are Gypsies), but in my experience of Irish travellers here in Ireland, they are primarily ethnically Irish people with Irish names such as Ward, Murphy and other names, with the same appearance ethnically speaking and the same native language (ie, Irish).

They claim they are victims of and outcasts of Irish society and this is true, however this can be attributed in part to their unsanitary living conditions (they make a total mess of land they settle on, leaving litter, and scrap) and their inter family wars. This has led to them being banned from public drinking houses in various places, as well as hotels where they might wish to hold wedding receptions - due to the violence that often arises at these events.

My own opinion on them is that they have nowhere to go, all they get is rejection from "settled" Irish people and the government, they suffer from a serious lack of education due to their stigma of being a "traveller". Attempts have been made to settle them into custom built housing estates, but these have failed for the most part, due to the inadaquecy of these estates, mainly due to poor sanitiation and facilities for people to live with. I have never had a positive experience with "travellers", any time I have encountered them it's been a case of intimidation or crime (car broken into, items stolen).

Basically, it's all part of a vicious circle as has been said already. It's pretty tragic.
posted by tomcosgrave at 9:55 AM on September 23, 2002


There's also the documentary American Gypsy.
posted by liam at 10:02 AM on September 23, 2002


Travellers ('itinerants', or, if you wish to cause offence and get your head kicked in, 'knackers') are an everyday sight here, especially when passing through the most decrepit and inhospitable outskirts of most cities and towns.

The level of racism and discrimination, especially when seeking employment, which they contend with on a daily basis is utterly shocking when considered objectively. Having said that, what Swandive and tomcosgrove said is true - although many are almost embarrassed by the level of hostility shown to Travellers, very few 'settled' Irish (myself included, much to my frustration) can bring themselves to feel much sympathy towards them due to their habit of suddenly taking over and destroying green areas before vanishing, 'acquiring' anything that isn't bolted to the ground, and disembowelling rival family members with slash-hooks and pick-axes. In short, Traveller culture simply does not recognise the laws and expectations of the 'settled' community, and herein lies the seeds of conflict. Media reportage on Travellers here exacerbates the situation, as it invariably focuses on conflicts with the rest of the community, and Travellers are also closely associated with poor literacy, short life-expectancy, opportunistic litigation and high unemployment.

Amidst all that crap, it's usually forgotten that Travellers/itinerants are rightly proud of their own distinct cultural and ethnic identity. Their social hierarchy is firmly rooted in the extended family unit, with the elderly being held in particular esteem. They also have a unique language, Cant, which is like a particularly lyrical version of Irish which has been frozen in a time-warp in the late-18th Century.
Although outwardly similar, Travellers are culturally distinct from gypsies - a strong thread of nomadic culture has always been carried through Irish history and prehistory - as tomcosgrove said earlier, many of today's travellers are descended from homeless families who had been evicted by British landowners during the 19th Century, and especially during and after the famine in the 1840's and early 1850's.

Anyway, for anyone who might be interested, this site is by far the best source on Traveller culture and identity, as perceived by the Travelling community itself.
posted by Doozer at 10:11 AM on September 23, 2002


Hmm ... I remember reading repeated references to Jade being "half-caste". Does this mean that just having a traveller parent makes you non-white in British eyes?

It seems as if British racial labels are distinct from North American ones in several other ways. For example, isn't "black" used as a descriptor for anyone who is African, Afro-Caribbean or South Asian? Only the first two choices match usage on this side of the ocean.


Jade has a black father. Black in the UK means African or West Indian. Some people call any race that is non-white black, but I think that is ridiculous.
posted by Summer at 10:19 AM on September 23, 2002


Oh sorry, didn't see Riviera's explanation.
posted by Summer at 10:22 AM on September 23, 2002


...many of today's travellers are descended from homeless families who had been evicted by British landowners during the 19th Century...

-Doozer, also TomCosgrave.

Good point--interesting also to note the British landlords were evicting people, consigning them to starvation, so they could graze cattle on the land to sell and make money from. (Tenants were dependant on farming at the time, as you really couldn't get a job and afford food at market price.)

A particularly heinous period in history, the time of "agrarian violence" created much of the Republican movement that is alive today.
posted by Shane at 10:33 AM on September 23, 2002


Along the lines of monkeyman's post, did anyone else notice that the mother was trying to exchange some clothes that the store personnel did not feel were legit? I live near the group of travelers that were featured on Dateline NBC a few years back, and even though only a few members of the community may be criminals, they commit more than enough crimes to ruin the reputation of the entire group. As an aside, one outcome of the Dateline broadcast is that the age for girls to marry in SC is now 14.
posted by TedW at 10:38 AM on September 23, 2002


My 2 cents: http://www.dancingbadger.com/fonseca.htm Bury Me Standing Up (better than living on my knees) a fine book by a gypsy about Roma; also see Joseph Mitchell, Up at the Old Hotel--outstanding writing on Gyspises in and around New York.

Note: gyspsies were despised in part because they were landless, not rooted (Nazis hated this)...

Unlike the Jews, those kiled by the nazis in the camps went with their families, all together, rather than being separated out. We know less about them because unlike Jews they were not bookish and thus left no or few records, though if you look at Holocaust materials their fate is documented.
The link to the academic writing guy is questionable: I had seen enough of the tv film to make it plain that this particular group was scamming on a large scale. As for the woman caught on tape: would seem odd that she and hubby were Travellers but living apart and regular business people.
But whatever their background, what was caught on tape is not to be excused away because of background of perp.
posted by Postroad at 10:51 AM on September 23, 2002


Wow, tons of great info here. I passed over the original thread ("How sick are we as a nation" type news stories always seem overblown--like parents haven't been beating kids forever, everywhere), and just noticed the Irish traveller thing in this morning's paper. Thanks, dirtylittlemonkey.
posted by mediareport at 10:51 AM on September 23, 2002


the biggest problem with groupings is that it will lead to discrimination. it would be nice if we could resist the temptation to group 'others' except when necessary. pipedream maybe, but as one living in america i see an awful lot of tension/emotion/passion exchanged over something as silly as where one's relatives are/were 'from'
posted by bluefish at 10:54 AM on September 23, 2002


i second the joseph mitchell recommendation, postroad. that's an outstanding book.
posted by lescour at 11:18 AM on September 23, 2002


the biggest problem with groupings is that it will lead to discrimination. it would be nice if we could resist the temptation to group 'others' except when necessary

Do you feel that adding a qualifier to your own nationality e.g, Irish-American, Inuit-American and so on creates a situation of self-discrimination bluefish?

You have to ask how proud someone is to be American if they willingly water it down don't you? Irish-American always makes me think, are you Irish or American? It seems to me to be justifiable when you have mixed parentage - one from each nation... but this 'third generation' stuff... like what is that about?
posted by DrDoberman at 11:28 AM on September 23, 2002


Damn it: Is it "travelers" or "travellers?" Webster's prefers the former, but if someone is going to dedicate an entire Web site to the subject, shouldn't he pick a standard spelling and stick with it? ARGH!
posted by NedKoppel at 11:30 AM on September 23, 2002


Tedw- She has an arrest warrant out in Texas for failure to appear at a court date. The charge- shoplifting from the same store (different location) that she was trying to return the goods to.
posted by 2sheets at 11:35 AM on September 23, 2002


I hope my post didn't seem to be too trollish, but until you have dealt with some of these people it is hard to imagine what they they are like. Please note that I am referring to the american branch of the Travellers.

The first time I was exposed to the Travellers I was working at a restaurant in Nashville about 5 years ago. Some of the managers and more experienced servers started warning the other servers to careful because the Travellers ( some people called them Gypsies ) were coming in to eat. I remember thinking, "Gypsies? What the hell are my idiot co-workers talking about now?" Also I was dismayed that my idiot co-workers seemed to be aware of some fringe group that I had never even heard of.

I was a bit disappointed when they started arriving, because they looked like normal people except for the girls. The way the young girls looked was the first clue that these folks were a little off and makes the Dateline reports seem true to me. As one of my fellow servers put it, they looked like little hoochie-mamas. It was especially odd because only the pre-pubescent ( 10-12 years old ) girls were dressed that way. Both men and women wore a lot of jewelry and the horseshoe design was ubiquitous. There was a total of about 40 people and they all seemed like family. At this point I was wondering what the big deal was other than questionable fashion-sense.

However when it came time to order and later pay the check they started acting exactly like management had warned us they would. Ordering at one table and then moving to another table and trying to say the item was never ordered in the first place after they had eaten it. We basically told them to pay the checks as they were and we didn't care who actually ordered the food. They paid up and went on their way and I remember thinking what an odd experience it was. Later we read in the paper that they were suspected of the previously mentioned scams with contracting for services not provided.

I actually read a lot of the links that dirtylittlemonkey posted and I have to say that the writer of the Travellers in America seems a bit too pro-traveller. I think that american Traveller crime is a little more widespread than 2-3 men conning an old lady out of her savings. Perhaps the " legitimate" Travellers complaints would be received with more sympathy if the Traveller community acknowledged the reality of the criminal behavior perpetrated by their members.
posted by monkeyman at 11:35 AM on September 23, 2002 [1 favorite]


i second the joseph mitchell recommendation, postroad. that's an outstanding book.

There's also the wonderful Latcho Drom, a documentary about gypsy music that traces the eastward migration from India to Spain. It uses almost no words, which sometimes works against it (especially if you love history and want to know more about the songs and dances), but it looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous.
posted by mediareport at 11:38 AM on September 23, 2002


the age for girls to marry in SC is now 14.
The link says 16 for boys. Why the double standard? I could see if this was a hold-over from a past law, but this law is new.
posted by jeblis at 11:58 AM on September 23, 2002


DrDoberman: Is someone really an American if they feel the need to hyphenate their nationality?


hob:Half of America identifies as "Irish," it's like being "ethnic" but still getting to be white.

DrDoberman:I hear you hob, that sort of explains why Irish terrorists received so many dollars of support from US 'fund raisers'.

DrDoberman: You have to ask how proud someone is to be American if they willingly water it down don't you? Irish-American always makes me think, are you Irish or American.


Well, well, well. DrDoberman, you seem to have issues with Irish-Americans...please explain. Is is the fact that we are actively concerned with what happens in the native country of our parents and grandparents? Is is the fact that we take pride in our ethnic heritage? What??

Concern with and activism on the behalf of people in your ethnic group does not necessarily equal terrorism. Quite frankly, it's offensive (not to mention overtly simplistic) for you to equate the two.

The fact that someone considers their family history to be an essential part of their identity does not make them any less "American". I have always been a little put off by the concept of the "melting pot" - freely giving up what you are and where you come from and unquestioningly taking on the mantle of what someone else considers "American". I much prefer the "salad" metaphor - retaining one's heritage while, at the same time, being committed to contributing to the well-being of society and the nation as a whole.

And hob, identifying oneself as "_____- American" anything in order to feel ethnic, yet white...that's the most ridiculous thing I've heard in a long time. My parents came to this country in the 50s & 60s, peppered family conversations with gaelic words, had accents that many outside the family found incompehensible - I'm not trying to be "ethnic", I am ethnic. And even if I was only 1/4 Irish - what's wrong with finding value and meaning in one or many parts of your heritage? How does that make you any less "American"?

/rant
posted by echolalia67 at 12:24 PM on September 23, 2002


You have to ask how proud someone is to be American if they willingly water it down don't you?

Viva the melting pot! Conform, conform! Forget about the cultures of your ancestors and embrace middle-American Walmart consumerism, bland sitcoms, and family values.

Yikes, I'm beginning to sound like Jello Biafra.
posted by hyperizer at 12:38 PM on September 23, 2002


Concern with and activism on the behalf of people in your ethnic group does not necessarily equal terrorism..

...except when it does.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:17 PM on September 23, 2002


...terrorism...

I gave $$ to this guy. I think he might be a terrorist, but he was really persuasive. Besides, he fixed my heating.
posted by Shane at 1:34 PM on September 23, 2002


Forget about the cultures of your ancestors and embrace middle-American Walmart consumerism, bland sitcoms, and family values.


Good God hyperizer. Is that what you think America boils down to? Why is being American more bland than being anything else?

A lot of this clinging onto ethnic identity is romanticism - it's a way of feeling special and more real than the people around you. But in truth how much knowledge can you have of the culture of a country you've never lived in? Ireland's very different from America and unfortunately it's not all russet-haired maidens singing whistful Celtic melodies by peat fires while drinking a nice pint of guinness. A second-generation Irish-American is as foreign there as any other kind of American.
posted by Summer at 1:37 PM on September 23, 2002


Good God hyperizer. Is that what you think America boils down to?

Well, no, I was using sarcasm and hyperbole to make my point.

Why is being American more bland than being anything else?

I guess because America was built on the near-extermination (mostly unintentional due to disease) of its native peoples, whereas most European nations have cultures and traditions that go back thousands of years.

I don't think someone who identifies themselves as "African-American" or "Irish-American" is necessarily not proud to be an American. Do you?

There's something sad about people who emigrate to the States changing their names to sound more American, or hanging up the American flag to avoid getting their businesses destroyed (or worse). I've known kids whose parents' first language wasn't English, who only know English themselves. I've known Indian people who have had their security deposits taken away because their landlords didn't like the smell of curry. Every day in subtle ways, people from different cultures are encouraged to fit in.

Clinging onto ethnic identity is... a way of feeling special and more real than the people around you.

Or it could be about searching for meaning. About not losing endangered cultures. About understanding your parents and great-grandparents and carrying on their traditions.
posted by hyperizer at 2:34 PM on September 23, 2002


tolkhan: Hey, I'm glad I caught it myself. Looked perfectly fine before I hit "PgDn" and saw "werewolves". I'm actually annoyed with this -- it's not worth a rant or anything, but there's so much gaming material online (Counterstrike clans, etc.) that "looks" legitimate if you don't enter through the front door (e.g. copious specs on the M-16, including how much money they cost -- for characters to buy in the game). It's an odd sort of thing that Google actually promotes these links because they get linked to. In the recent Salton Sea thread, I found an interesting history of the (real) Lake Cohuilla that once covered the valley, except that around 1749 it diverged from reality to create an alternate-history with a Southern-California gold rush one century earlier than the real one up north. If I weren't already into pseudohistory, I might not have caught it without reading all the way to the end. You wonder if some kid's written a term paper based on that ...

Ned: as for travelers v. travellers, the double-L spelling is more common in Britain, but also seems to be the preferred spelling for the ethnic group in America.
posted by dhartung at 2:56 PM on September 23, 2002


Damn it: Is it "travelers" or "travellers?"

Travelers = pref. U.S. spelling
Travellers = pref. UK/Irish/Canadian/etc. spelling
Not able to remember which spelling I should be using when I'm proofreading = the perils of being an (Irish-Swedish-German-Cherokee-bit of everything-)American editor who largely read British kids books growing up.

on preview: jinx, dhartung!

Forgive the topic drift, but here's a delightful story about ethnic identity in America that I rarely have cause to pass on: according to a great-aunt of mine, one particular set of our forebears felt very strongly that, having recently immigrated, they should take on a new name before setting out West to settle. They wanted a common name... a name they saw around them daily in their brand-new New York neighborhood... a name that would be distinctly "American."

And that is how the Norwegian side of my family came to be known as the Wongs.

Dunno if they in fact spent time in Chinatown, as per Aunt Dessa's claim, but they did change their name to Wong after they arrived in the U.S. Great-great-grandpa Ludwig Wong even fought in the Civil War -- Union side, as you might expect with a name like that.
posted by scody at 3:09 PM on September 23, 2002


Great-great-grandpa Ludwig Wong even fought in the Civil War -- Union side, as you might expect with a name like that.

Not to be confused with my family, who also had a "chinese" last name, but famously fought on the other side.
posted by hob at 3:25 PM on September 23, 2002


I guess because America was built on the near-extermination (mostly unintentional due to disease) of its native peoples, whereas most European nations have cultures and traditions that go back thousands of years.

Most European nations are founded on what we would consider genocide. The Britons were massacred by the Saxons, the Saxons were massacred by the Vikings and the Normans. Recognisable English culture, language and traditions are less that 800 years old. Until the fourteenth century English was the language of peasants.

Or it could be about searching for meaning. About not losing endangered cultures. About understanding your parents and great-grandparents and carrying on their traditions.

There's no more meaning in an ancient culture than there is in a modern one. Not that American culture is that modern. It's centuries old. Understanding your grandparents doesn't have to involve you kidding yourself you're the same as them.

About not losing endangered cultures.

These cultures aren't endangered, they carry on in their original lands. The Irish still exist. They're being ethnically Irish in Ireland. Except they're getting on with the business of being a modern European nation.
posted by Summer at 3:33 PM on September 23, 2002


Why is being American more bland than being anything else?

It's not, but not for lack trying on the part of corporate America. It says alot, for example, when one of the best selling CDs of the last few years, O Brother, Where Art Thou, gets scant play on country radio because it sounds "too country".

But in truth how much knowledge can you have of the culture of a country you've never lived in?

And I could ask the same, Summer. How can you have meaningful knowlege about a country you don't live in? Sure you might live *near* Ireland, but how does that make you more knowlegeable in a signifigant way? Watching TV and reading newspaper articles about a neighboring country doesn't count.

Ireland's very different from America and unfortunately it's not all russet-haired maidens singing whistful Celtic melodies by peat fires while drinking a nice pint of guinness.

Nor is it a country of wild-eyed, ill-educated fanatics who want to bomb England for no good reason, or a country of dirty-faced urchins who have no shoes because their shiftless father drinks too much.

I too dislike the tam o'shanter & aran sweater wearing romantics who think Ireland is a quaint disneylike country of charmingly accented country folk skipping through green fields, merrily swinging their shilealeaghs. Folks like that are pretty annoying, I agree.

A second-generation Irish-American is as foreign there as any other kind of American.

How do you know? Again, do you live there? Have you met every 2nd generation Irish American who's ever traveled to Ireland? Often, the whole "Plastic Paddy" stereotype is just another way of saying, "Shut up, you don't know what you're talking about." Well, if people in Britan feel comfortable telling me "you seem pretty intelligent for an Irish person," (yeah, it's happened) then I feel pretty comfortable identifying myself as Irish. (hums Gang of Four's Armorlite Rifle to self).

inpHilltr8r:what part of "Concern with and activism on the behalf of people in your ethnic group does not necessarily equal terrorism" did you not understand? there are many legitimate groups who are concerned with what's going on in Northern Ireland
posted by echolalia67 at 3:59 PM on September 23, 2002


Most European nations are founded on what we would consider genocide.

That's a good point. I guess I'll have to come up with another reason why American culture seems so bland sometimes :-) Perhaps it has to do with corporatization.

Until the fourteenth century English was the language of peasants.

And therefore unimportant?

There's no more meaning in an ancient culture than there is in a modern one.

I never said that. But if my great-grandparents are from Africa, perhaps I would find more meaning studying African folklore than watching baseball, eating a hotdog, and talking about the latest episode of Friends.

Understanding your grandparents doesn't have to involve you kidding yourself you're the same as them.

I didn't mean to imply that I'm the same as them. But I don't want them sheltering me from their language and traditions because other people might find them strange or "un-American."

These cultures aren't endangered, they carry on in their original lands.

Tell that to the Navajo.

Summer, I'm not saying you can't love America and its culture. I do. I'm saying people should be able to acknowledge and enjoy their roots. I'm afraid people like DrDoberman are pressuring others to drop their hyphenated identities just so they seem more patriotic.
posted by hyperizer at 4:03 PM on September 23, 2002


D'oh! dirtylittlemonkey, you beat me to it! I read and commented on the Irish Traveller connection in the other thread that got deleted, and figured the Travellers needed their own FPP.

My comment in the other thread was mostly this:

I grew up in Mobile, Alabama, where there were people my grandmother referred to as "gypsies." She pointed out their houses, which all were all built in this kind of slightly surreal suburban hodgepodge style, usually with iron gates around the yard. They were very similar to the houses in the link posted about the SC "gypsies" (which I can't seem to find now).

I was intrigued. Why would there be "gypsies" living in suburban Mobile? Now I know. Thanks.
posted by sklero at 4:13 PM on September 23, 2002


But if my great-grandparents are from Africa, perhaps I would find more meaning studying African folklore than watching baseball, eating a hotdog, and talking about the latest episode of Friends.

What about human dignity, the brotherhood of man, and personal freedom? These are what America means to me, and I would like to suggest that if you can only see Americal as the land of Friends and Baseball then you have let Them rob you of your cultural heritage.
posted by hob at 4:28 PM on September 23, 2002


I see I come a day late and a dollar short, as usual, to this thread, however I would just like to add my enthusiastic second to Postroad's book post: Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey by Isabel Fonesca. The title is taken from the very poignant Romany proverb, "Bury me standing. I've been on my knees all my life."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:31 PM on September 23, 2002


...except when it does.
-inpHilltr8r

Uh oh. You must be that inpHilltr8r from Central Services...
posted by Shane at 5:43 PM on September 23, 2002


Is someone really an American if they feel the need to hyphenate their nationality? Yes.
posted by anildash at 6:01 PM on September 23, 2002


what part of "Concern with and activism on the behalf of people in your ethnic group does not necessarily equal terrorism"

I used the word except carefully.

there are many legitimate groups who are concerned with what's going on in Northern Ireland

Yeah, and there are a few who are more than happy to pay for a little semtex here and there.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 6:02 PM on September 23, 2002


This thread reminds me of a book I've always wanted to own: Albion's Seed - Four British Folkways in America. As I understand, the book gives a theory of America as a function of a great wave of Euro-trash moving inexorably from East to West. My ancestors in Virginia, for example, were freed from debtor's prison and probably bought their passage to America with indentured servitude. The 'Irish Travelers' are another leaf on the same tree.
posted by crunchburger at 6:55 PM on September 23, 2002


Okay, so.... here's my problem with this whole thing. If she is indeed what some of us suspect, a Traveler, then someone owes me an explanation.
When I think of gypsies, I think of poor, on-the-fringe, barely-surviving "po' folks" who are just using the con to get by and live another day. Wondering from town to town on foot, blah blah blah.

So, why does this woman have a nicer car than me? I mean, Jesus, a 2002 Toyota Sequoia is a damn fine car.

I need to start a scam.
posted by bradth27 at 9:16 PM on September 23, 2002


Now now Shane, it's that sort of easy romantisization that keeps these long, bloody, and ultimately pointless exchanges going much longer than is strictly necessary.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 9:18 PM on September 23, 2002


So, why does this woman have a nicer car than me?

if you're a nomad, having a nice car has got to be priority...
posted by hob at 9:58 PM on September 23, 2002


That's a pretty major case of low self-esteem, when you think a Toyota Sequoia is nicer than you.
posted by kindall at 10:43 PM on September 23, 2002


Yeah a Porsche or a Hummer I could see, but not a Toyota.
posted by jeblis at 11:52 PM on September 23, 2002


Question: How can anybody be "proud" of something they had no say in? I.e., I'm white, but I didn't choose or much less "achieve" that; that's just what I happened to be born as. Now, I'm not proud of that nor am I ashamed of that -- because that's just who I am; I had no choice in the matter.

It makes sense to be proud of things you have accomplished, created and/or resolved, but things you had no control over are hardly something to celebrate. They just are.
posted by dagny at 11:55 PM on September 23, 2002


echolalia67:there are many legitimate groups who are concerned with what's going on in Northern Ireland

inpHilltr8r:Yeah, and there are a few who are more than happy to pay for a little semtex here and there.

It cuts both ways, pal.

That being said, back on topic. I remember seeing the old horse-drawnTraveller caravans(I think this link was posted earlier) when I was a kid. I remember thinking that the caravans were really pretty and that must be a lot of fun to travel that way. I also remember being confused and upset when the adults told me that the "Tinkers" were dirty, bad people and that I wasn't allowed to go anywhere near them. The prejudice against them in Ireland is so deep rooted to this day. Sad.
posted by echolalia67 at 11:58 PM on September 23, 2002


These people were likewise called 'tinkers' in the part of Wales where I grew up, where, rather bizarrely, I recall they would call door-to-door selling rugs. An abiding memory is opening the door to some or other straggly youth inquiring in a thick brogue do you want to buy a carpet?
posted by misteraitch at 1:13 AM on September 24, 2002


Well, well, well. DrDoberman, you seem to have issues with Irish-Americans...please explain.

It is easy to explain, I have no problem with Americans who have Irish ancestors, you are just mistaken echolalia. I used the term Irish-Americans as an example of the question that I was asking (if you look back you will see the Inuit included also).

My point is a simple one, look at your passport, there is no such nationality as Irish-American. I was born in England, I am British. Not Celtic-British, not Teutonic-British or Gaelic-British. I feel no need to prefix my nationality with that of my great-grandparents. Maybe it's a British thing, but all this Oprahizing seems very daft. Hey, it was round world last time I looked ;)

With regard to my comments on misplaced retro-patriotism driving fundraising for the IRA in America - I retract not one single word of something so obviously true. Supporting your ethic group is one thing, buying them semtex to maim, blind, disfigure and kill people seems to be quite another.
posted by DrDoberman at 3:13 AM on September 24, 2002


* Gypsies don't do a very good job at resurfacing driveways. I know that much.

* Not really applicable to much of this discussion, but I hold that hyphenating your nationality is self-discriminating... so don't cry to me about it.

* I have dual (or, in theory, triple) nationality. I can _actually_ get three passports if I wanted. How many people that call themselves Irish-American can get an Irish passport?

* Mentions of Northern Ireland should be equivalent to Godwin's Law. You're not going to get anywhere. Anyone from Northern Ireland here raise their hand. *raises hand* Yeah, that's what I thought.

* Don't give any money to any politically motivated group / person / event connected to Northern Ireland. No matter what misguided views you hold, you aren't helping anyone. It all goes towards hate groups of some kind or other, if not terrorists. Invest in legitimate companies? Sure. Start new ones here? Sure. Give money to non-political charities? If you want. Just don't make my life worse by sticking your wallet in...

* Over here, if something has too much focus politically one way or the other it's bound to be suss.
posted by digiboy at 3:58 AM on September 24, 2002


The Feb. 3, 2002 Washington Post Magazine had an article in it written by Sarah Taylor (sorry there's no link - the article's vanished behind the veil of the payment-required-archive) that talks about the Irish / America connection.

The article talked about how the old tradition of leaving Ireland for better economic opportunities elsewhere was being turned on its head by expatriots returning now that things are getting better. Unfortunately, it turns out that Ireland is no longer the country they remember (if it ever was to begin with).

I liked it because it refused to romanticize Ireland (either positively or negatively), which seems to be the only way Americans can think about the subject.
posted by Irontom at 4:54 AM on September 24, 2002


So, why does this woman have a nicer car than me? I mean, Jesus, a 2002 Toyota Sequoia is a damn fine car.


The traveler women in our area tend drive high end Lexuses (Lexii?) and Infinitis (with the occasional Cadillac thrown in, usually for gandma), while the men drive late-model extended cab pickups with all the options.
posted by TedW at 5:49 AM on September 24, 2002


...it's that sort of easy romantisization...
-inpH...

My point exactly. I was going to suggest a Tom Clancy movie might be more suited to you (but decided against it.)

echolalia67, that's a good point. I had a couple of links about the RUC I thought about posting, but why bother responding to the tripe?
posted by Shane at 5:55 AM on September 24, 2002


It cuts both ways, pal.

I never said it didn't. You seem to assume that because I hate the IRA, I naturally support the UVF. Which I don't. The paramilitary wings of both sides are murdering scum (and the RUC and mainland police aren't much better). So why send money to either of them? You just encourage them, and retard the peace process.


BTW, if you can find me an example of an american lobby for the loyalists, I'll rail against them as well.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 10:30 AM on September 24, 2002


echolalia67, that's a good point. I had a couple of links about the RUC I thought about posting, but why bother responding to the tripe?

...because you'd only further expose your ignorance of an incredibly complicated situation?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 10:36 AM on September 24, 2002


(on reflection: what digiboy said)
posted by inpHilltr8r at 11:11 AM on September 24, 2002


On one of the links posted earlier (I forget which) it was mentioned that these people pooled their money and paid cash for vehicles. How they got the money to begin with, I don't know, but if true they save a bundle on interest.
posted by konolia at 2:23 PM on September 24, 2002


How can anybody be "proud" of something they had no say in?

One can very easily and understandably be proud of the accomplishments of a group, even if it wasn't one's own achievement. Have you ever rooted for a sports team?
posted by anildash at 2:37 PM on September 24, 2002


Dagny: How can anybody be "proud" of something they had no say in?

"Proud" is a terribly vague inaccurate word for it and being proud merely because of being born into an ethnic group doesn't make sense. Pride, in the sense of knowing and understanding your family/ethnic group's history and refusing to buying into sterotypes, does make sense, at least to me.

Digiboy: I have dual (or, in theory, triple) nationality. I can _actually_ get three passports if I wanted. How many people that call themselves Irish-American can get an Irish passport?

Me!! (hops out of chair, waving arms wildly.Co-workers are alarmed) American-British(in theory, one parent is a naturalized British citizen)-Irish.

inpHilltr8r: You seem to assume that because I hate the IRA, I naturally support the UVF. Which I don't. The paramilitary wings of both sides are murdering scum (and the RUC and mainland police aren't much better). So why send money to either of them?

I don't remember saying anything about giving money to paramilitaries. I believe funding violence simply begets more violence. I would, however, gladly give money to non-violent organizations that focus attention on social injustice and violence inflicted upon citizens by government agencies, both in the North and around the world. As they say, sunshine is the best disinfectant.

I also just want to point out that violence does not occur in a vaccumn. For example, Hitler came to power at a time when his country was facing a serious economic crisis,and at a time when eugenics theories were accepted as fact by many otherwise intelligent educated people. Eugenics theoryalone does not explain the atrocities but I'm sure it made it a lot easier for the Nazis to justify their actions.
There's a long, ugly history in the north that is made even more complicated by a really bad economic situation. I agree with digiboy said about economic development being a more constructive solution to "the troubles."

DrDoberman:It is easy to explain, I have no problem with Americans who have Irish ancestors, you are just mistaken echolalia....My point is a simple one, look at your passport, there is no such nationality as Irish-American. I was born in England, I am British.

Okay, you can stop being condescending now, you're giving me a headache. For the record, I prefer "American of Irish Descent" but that can be a bit of a mouthful.

With regard to my comments on misplaced retro-patriotism driving fundraising for the IRA in America - I retract not one single word of something so obviously true. Supporting your ethic group is one thing, buying them semtex to maim, blind, disfigure and kill people seems to be quite another.

So, how do you feel about your tax money funding military action (not to mention the RUC's payroll) in the Northern Ireland and other parts of the world? Mind you, I'm pretty pissed off about my tax money going to fund oppressive regimes all over the world. I'm just trying to point out that funding terrorism comes in many forms.
posted by echolalia67 at 3:22 PM on September 24, 2002


...because you'd only further expose your ignorance of an incredibly complicated situation?
-inpHilltr8r

You get my ignore button from here on in, troll.
posted by Shane at 3:29 PM on September 24, 2002


You get my ignore button

You have an ignore button?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 5:16 PM on September 24, 2002


I don't remember saying anything about giving money to paramilitaries.

Noraid gives money to the paramilitaries. Not all 'ethnic support groups' are what they appear to be. That was the whole point of my first (and I now wish, only) comment in this thread. (I linked to Noraid, and a bunch of articles showing the links between Noraid and the 'Real' IRA.)

So, how do you feel about your tax money funding military action (not to mention the RUC's payroll) in the Northern Ireland and other parts of the world?

Probably the same as you. Pissed off. Remarkably similar to the way I feel about being painted as some sort of loyalist stooge, when nothing would make me happier than Ian Paisley dying of something really nasty.

(Thank you for that initial personal attack Shane, nothing like getting off on the wrong foot, and then proceeding to stuff it in your mouth, eh?)

Personally speaking, I'm only 1/4 Irish, but you can add 1/4 Welsh, and the remaining 1/2 English has been pretty shitty to them 'an all. Pah, I have no national pride, although I will admit to being impressed at the sheer number of global conflicts that can be traced back to the British (not that I've had anything to do with them I hasten to add).
posted by inpHilltr8r at 6:21 PM on September 24, 2002


Okay, we all need to chill out here and be peaceful. Think pleasant thoughts. We're mature adults in a discussion, we're not a bunch of catty brainiacs sticking our tongues out at each other. This is supposed to be fun, not painful.

This thread isn't even specifically about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. DeNiro and Hoskins aren't personal attacks, they're just funny guys. And I'm not exactly an idiot when it comes to politics and the Troubles.

So just have a good one!
...and while we're off-topic, what the hell is this?

That is all. Go back to what you weren't doing.
posted by Shane at 7:38 AM on September 25, 2002


OK, cool. The Hoskins thing did rankle though. Brazil's one of my all time favourites, and the Hoskins character, to me, represents a particularly insidious form of casual evil.

- Sam
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:44 PM on September 25, 2002


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