Category: Archive

Glad tidings

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Lecherous uncles, cantankerous seniors and surly teens — late December and Thanksgiving are just about the only times when all of them are slung together into one big, tense group. And of course, there is also a plentiful supply of booze to give any enmities an extra sharpness.
But if you think that your holidays might be soaked in sourness and anchored in angst, don’t feel alone. Many people will be going through exactly the same thing.
As it is with families, so it is with communities. Irish-America itself has a plentiful supply of rivalries and feuds. So take heart this holiday — nothing you will experience could surely be as bad as the Irish-American Christmas Dinner From Hell. Here, the Irish Echo presents a list of invitees sure to make any holiday gathering go with a bang; a social mix so combustible that the only thing to do is retire to a safe distance and watch the fireworks

Bill O’Reilly The son of an Irish-American family from Long Island, this Fox News host has made his name and his fortune, at least in part, through his combativeness. For anyone left-of-center, taking to the airwaves with O’Reilly must be a bit like entering the lion’s den. Anyone judged insufficiently patriotic on any number of issues must face his wrath. He has compared PBS broadcaster and former Lyndon Johnson aide Bill Moyers to Mao Zedong, said that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is “just to the right of Fidel Castro” and suggested that France is home to people who “don’t take a shower for 18 days.” He also has a long-running feud with liberal author and erstwhile Saturday Night Live star Al Franken, who now hosts a show on Air America. O’Reilly doesn’t suffer fools — or, in fact, anyone who disagrees with him — gladly. But who better to sit by his side than. . .

Cindy Sheehan About as far away from O’Reilly on the ideological spectrum as it is possible to get, Sheehan is the Irish-American mother who became a focal point for the anti-war movement this summer. Her son, Casey, an American soldier, was killed in Iraq in April 2004. Sheehan’s vigil outside President Bush’s Crawford ranch transfixed the nation in August. But Sheehan also made her fair share of enemies, in part because of the shrill tone of some of her pronouncements. The columnist George Will once listed her various descriptions of the president. They included: “filth spewer,” “evil maniac,” “lying bastard” and the world’s “biggest terrorist.” She opposes U.S. involvement in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq, and, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, insisted that the president should pull the troops out of “occupied New Orleans.” With opinions like those, Bill O’Reilly and her should get along like, er, a match and a petrol box. But perhaps the mix is missing a little something. A little something that could be provided by . . .

Sean Hannity Hannity seems in many ways like the spiritual brother of his fellow Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. Like O’Reilly, Hannity was raised in a Long Island, Irish-American family. Like O’Reilly, Hannity is a rough’n’tumble, divisive figure. Like O’Reilly, Hannity has a popular syndicated radio show. And, like O’Reilly, Hannity’s claims to be standing up for the “little guy” in Middle American society against elitist, liberal bias, bring him popularity in some quarters and scorn in others. His radio show is said to be the second-most listened-to in the nation, with an audience of around 13 million. But his critics condemn him for his stridently conservative views. They also note contentious episodes in his past, such as an interview on student radio with the author of a highly controversial book on AIDS. According to Wikipedia, Hannity was fired — though eventually reinstated — after the author, Gene Antonio, described gays as “a subculture of people engaged in deviant, twisted acts” on his show. Plenty of material there for a sharp debate between Hannity and. . .

Rosie O’Donnell Arguably the most famous lesbian in America, Roseanne Teresa O’Donnell is yet another Long Island-raised Irish-American — though her similarities to Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity most definitely end there. O’Donnell, who is proudly and loudly liberal on a whole range of issues, married her partner, Kelli Carpenter in San Francisco early last year. She had only officially come out of the closet a few years before, though rumors had long swirled around her sexuality. O’Donnell gave up her TV talk show in 2002. She now runs a gay and lesbian-oriented travel company while also blogging at www.rosie.com. Seen as a hugely positive role model by some and a fractious, self-centered figure by others, O’Donnell has also made news recently, alleging in interviews that President Bush is a war criminal and should be tried as such. That issue alone should give her plenty to talk about with. . .

Judith Miller The former New York Times reporter is perhaps less publicly identified as an Irish-American than anyone else on this list. In fact, Miller’s mother immigrated to the United States from the west of Ireland. Opinions are as split on Miller as they are on the Iraq war. To her detractors, she was gullible, too close to her sources and too prone to taking an alarmist stance on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. To her defenders, Miller was a largely innocent victim of the failings that bedeviled pre-war intelligence and someone who was thrown overboard by her employer for no obvious reason. One problem Miller appeared to suffer from was a lack of popularity among her fellow reporters. Whether that was because of envy or because of Miller’s purportedly fractious personality is difficult to tell. But it was clear that she wouldn’t be returning to work for the Times, post-imprisonment, after an op-ed column appeared with her as its subject and the headline “Woman of Mass Destruction.” Doubtless Miller would have quite a bit to say to the author of that particular piece of invective. . .

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Maureen Dowd MoDo, as she has become known to readers of Manhattan’s snarkier blogs, has been skewering politicians in print for years. The daughter of Mike Dowd, who hailed from Co. Clare and Peggy Meenihan, whose roots lay in Mayo, the New York Times columnist was almost as critical of Bill Clinton’s shenanigans with Monica Lewinsky as she has been of the current president’s adventures in Iraq. Dowd’s witty, piquant style has earned her a legion of fans that believe her writing offers a rare, albeit scathing, insight into the personalities that shape global politics. Not everyone agrees, of course — Dowd is a hate figure to many conservatives who see her as an ultra-liberal. Her most recent book, “Are Men Necessary?,” found a ready audience — and an equally avid chorus of critics. Dowd has noted in interviews that the book argues that men are, indeed, necessary, if only for fun. Perhaps should could be reaffirmed in that belief by. . .

George Clooney Clooney is another national figure of Irish-American heritage whose ancestry is sometimes underplayed. A nephew of Rosemary Clooney, the famous singer and actor, George has gradually acquired gravitas over the years since he became famous on TV’s “ER.” The movies with which he has been involved this year have copper fastened that reputation. “Good Night, And Good Luck,” which focused on the battles of legendary broadcaster Edward R. Murrow won rave reviews; the newly-released “Syriana,” which takes on the vexing subjects of Middle Eastern politics and the oil industry, also looks set to be a hit. Both those movies, however, seem to have also secured Clooney’s reputation as a “Hollywood liberal” and, thus, a hero to some and an enemy to others.

Alas, our Christmas dinner from hell misses one obvious sparring partner for Clooney — his “Good Night, And Good Luck” posthumous co-star — and one Irish-American who is, understandably, little celebrated — the red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.
Perhaps there is room for at least one ghost at this feast.

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