chapter  8
10 Pages

Masculinity and Ethnicity: The Wire and Rescue Me

This chapter will examine critical elements within US popular culture that engage with the construction of Irish-American masculinity as embodiment of patriotic, blue-collar masculinity. It seeks to extend the analysis of the way in which Irishness has been crucially deployed, post-September 11, 2001, in the articulation of white, working-class, male identity. Not coincidentally, the 2006 New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade was led by the 69th Infantry Regiment of the US Army, recently returned from Iraq. The ceremony at the parade’s end in which military medals were bestowed on members of the regiment was accompanied by music from the Wolfe Tones. The regiment has a historical link with Irish America, as have the New York fi re and police departments, which have achieved an iconic status in the representation of the 9/11 attacks. In some ways, the conjunction of militarism and republican balladry at the New York parade indicates the enormous gulf that separates the self-representation of Irish America and Ireland. The Dublin parade in the same year came in the aftermath of republican riots and the sound of the Wolfe Tones would probably have cleared the streets of law-abiding citizens in ten minutes (a different strand of the ballad tradition was represented by the Dublin Grand Marshall, Ronnie Drew). The no doubt bemused Powder Springs High School marching band found itself marching in Dublin beside a lone protestor waving a “US troops out of Shannon” banner. (The offi cial antiwar protest was staged on March 18.) The relation between Ireland and Irish America is not that of easy contrasts and opposition, from whichever side of the Atlantic it is viewed. For as the New York parade indicates, Irishness has become part of American self-representation.