The early 19th and 20th centuries saw Irish Catholics victimized for adhering to an “un-American religion” and for supporting political violence. The Irish were refugees and radicals whom, even when they came to America, continued to advocate for violent revolution in Ireland; the kind of people we are trying to block from America now.
An argument used by Irish Americans now is that earlier immigrants were more loyal and more willing to assimilate. Perhaps they never heard of John Patrick Riley who came to America and organized The St. Patrick’s Battalion who fought against the United States in the Mexican-American War of the 1840s. In World War II, some Irish Americans supported Germany, hoping it would lead to British defeat and freedom for Ireland. And there continued to be illegal Irish immigrants as far back as 1922. The New York Times estimated there were two million immigrants in America. However, America did survive and some even felt the country was “great” back then.
The sad thing is that Irish Americans supporting policies to block Muslims from immigrating are doing the same type of scapegoating and demagoguery that the anti-Irish nativists did. Founding Father John Jay even said “We must erect a wall of brass around the country for the exclusion of Catholics.” Strangely sounding familiar language.
Fortunately, we did not give in to these impulses back then. One of the most important reasons to understand history is so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. So, are we inadequately teaching history, or are we excluding important portions of it, or choosing to ignore it? Are we going to give into our impulses this time?
What do you think?
Resource: Star-Ledger, Tom Deignan, guest columnist