How about this: One of America’s most respected and beloved ice cream manufacturers proudly unveils a new flavor on St. Patrick’s Day, but inadvertently names it after a gang of British war criminals.
Vermont’s Ben & Jerry put out a friendly press release: “Erin Go Bragh! Taste what’s on tap at Ben & Jerry’s — toast St. Patrick’s Day with new Black & Tan ice cream.”
Had the company’s executives done just one Internet search, or asked anyone with even a remote knowledge of Irish history, they would have seen just how appropriate their announcement would be.
The Black and Tans, of course, were a paramilitary force used by the British to terrorize Ireland during the War of Independence in 1920 and 1921. Recruited for their violence from the prisons of England, they were allowed to shoot any civilian they deemed suspicious.
They specialized in “retribution” against entire towns, often murdering people as an example, and burning homes. Their commander was quoted as saying: “If a police barracks is burned or if the barracks already occupied is not suitable, then the best house in the locality is to be commandeered, the occupants thrown into the gutter. Let them die there – the more the merrier.”
Some Irish Americans are offended, and want an apology or a boycott. Others are content to have a laugh at Ben & Jerry’s expense.
Already the jokes have started: Just how offensive can they get? Ku Klux Krunch? Peanut Pol Pot? Gestapo Pistachio? Saddam Sorbet?
Before matters get out of hand, perhaps Ben & Jerry should simply say sorry, and allow the ice cream version follow the real Black and Tans into history.