The Orange and The Green

St. Patrick’s Day came and passed this year with my ignoring it the best I could.  Like all American mutts, there is that need to find an “authentic” identity to which to tie my heritage.  By and large, that was already done for me.  As a child my father was tremendously proud of being Irish.  His mother’s side had DEFINITELY come from Ireland.  His “da”, I can’t say for certain.  On my mother’s side, the surname Conn certainly implies an Irish connection; although Glazebrook seems more Scottish.  Again, I cannot say.  However, as a family we identified as strictly Irish.  For a long time I though that was cool.  Until, of course, I realized that I’m still all-American mutt.

The more I reflected on my Irish heritage, the more my father’s playing of The Irish Rovers came into play.  One song in particular, “The Orange and the Green.”  I’d loved it as a child, but as I really listened, I found my father’s childhood somewhat replayed.  You see, if the Wynns are Irish, then their Protestant background must have clashed with the Turner’s innate Catholicism. You can imagine how an unplanned pregnancy as well as the following divorce played out with these religious followers.

Suddenly stuff started making sense.  My father had been baptized Catholic.  He was raised, however, by his Protestant grandmother.  He was named Gerald Eugene to OUR knowledge.  He went by Jerry with us.  His mother called him Garold and Gary.  Religion was, it seemed, more than a hot-button topic.  It seemed more nuclear.  Both of my paternal grandparents seemed to have some sort of extreme interest in what religion we were.  Not whether we were taken care of or doing well, just whether we’d been off to church and which one.

It seems to me when the narrator says, “And me being strictly neutral, bashed everyone in sight.” that was my dad’s clue to be anything BUT Catholic or Protestant.  In his case, it was to be monotheistic (for all intents and purposes, Jewish — although no conversion or practicing). Perhaps it was his disdain for religion that sparked mine.  Perhaps it was that idea that while being “right” at no time did the practitioners (pushers) actually work for the betterment of the family members.  I have particular anger stemming from a time when my mom was in the hospital for surgery when my most religious relatives allowed my dad to drive my brother and I home while he was amazingly drunk.  Perhaps they felt that with religion he would stop drinking.  I felt that with religion they wouldn’t allow innocent children to be driven by a drunk.

We were both wrong.  Religion didn’t stop his drinking nor protect us from the potential harm from his drinking. It did, however, prove that if there were a God, this shit would not have happened.  Why would a God, any God, want fighting in his name?

There are no answers, of course.  These are my feelings — right, wrong or indifferent.  It’s my vision with my preadolescent memories.  However, I wonder what life would have been like if there’d been no orange or green.

The Lyrics

Oh it is the biggest mix-up that you have ever seen
My father he was orange and my mother she was green

Oh my father was an Ulsterman, proud Protestant was he
My mother was a Catholic girl, from County Cork was she
They were married in two churches, lived happily enough
Until the day that I was born and things got rather tough

Oh it is the biggest mix-up that you have ever seen
My father he was orange and my mother she was green

Baptised by father Reilly, I was rushed away by car
To be made a little orangeman, my father’s shining star
I was christened David Anthony, but still in spite of that
To my father I was William while my mother called me Pat

Oh it is the biggest mix-up that you have ever seen
My father he was orange and my mother she was green

With mother every Sunday to mass I’d proudly stroll
Then after that the orange lads would try to save my soul
For both sides tried to claim me, but I was smart because
I played the flute or played the harp, depending where I was

Oh it is the biggest mix-up that you have ever seen
My father he was orange and my mother she was green

One day my ma’s relations came round to visit me
Just as my father’s kinfolk were all sittin’ down to tea
We tried to smooth things over, but they all began to fight
And me being strictly neutral, I bashed everyone in sight

Oh it is the biggest mix-up that you have ever seen
My father he was orange and my mother she was green

Now my parents never could agree about my type of school
My learning was all done at home, that’s why I’m such a fool
They both passed on, god rest them, but left me caught between
That awful color problem of the orange and the green

Oh it is the biggest mix-up that you have ever seen
My father he was orange and my mother she was green

Yes it is the biggest mix-up that you have ever seen
My father he was orange and my mother she was green

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