Today South Boston Honors Saint Patrick

DSC_0547It’s here. The St. Patrick’s Day parade in South Boston. Along with it has come the dispute that began 22 years ago.

You know what I’m talking about. Or do you?

It is written about in today’s Boston Globe by Yvonne Abraham of the Boston Globe. She wrote that she asked Boston’s new mayor about gays marching openly in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. He responded: “It’s going to happen in my first term.” Note that she was cute in phrasing the question. She asked him about gays marching openly, not about gays marching. There is no question that gays can march in the parade. The issue is what will they be able to say in their signage when they march. 

Abraham tells us about MassEquality. She writes: “ Every year, MassEquality asks to march and parade sponsors exercise their constitutional right to say no. . . . But this year, after MassEquality’s usual rejection,”  the major tried to broker a compromise. It seems typical with some Globe writers that they leave out important facts. Abraham fails to tell us that a compromise was reached. MassEquality participation was accepted. It could march in the parade. It just couldn’t march the way it wanted with its members carrying certain signage.

Abraham quotes MassEquality’s executive director who said that this is one of the  “last vestiges of really hostile discrimination.”

As I noted, the issue isn’t about gays marching. Another article in the Boston Globe by Andrew Ryan noted that a South Boston Lower End diversity group under the leadership of gays will have a float in the parade. They will wear scarves to show their group affiliation. In their application they stated that “this small token of wearing a unique scarf would allow us to move toward inclusion.”

Gays have always marched in the South Boston parade but have never identified themselves as such. Lead parade organizer Philip J. Wuschke Jr. (What part of Ireland is he from?) said: “Gay people march in this all the time. Every year. This isn’t the first time. “We don’t ban gay people. We ban groups that are trying to make a statement.” 

Yvonne Abraham represents the traditional Globe attitude toward the parade. It’s time to tell the parade organizers what to do. Andrew Ryan tells us of another approach where gays who live in South Boston are participating in the parade wearing discreet indicia of their sexual preference. Ryan quoted one of the latter group as having said: “There are other ways to do things, even if they are not as public, not as volatile, and not as contentious.”

The Globe’s approach of ridiculing the parade organizers as bigots or telling half the story; Sam Adams and Heineken’s pulling back their support;  the major’s, Senator Lynch’s and others attempts to force the parade organizers to let gays march openly will certainly founder. This is because they don’t seem to realized that some people cannot have something forced down their throats.

The history of this 22-year-old dispute must be taken into account when considering it. History is always important. Think of the Orange Walk and how long that lasts. The background of this parade is spelled out in a book: “From Trial Court to the United States Supreme Court: Anatomy of a Free Speech Case: The Incredible Inside Story Behind the Theft of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.” It tells the remarkable story of how all the lower court judges in Massachusetts and 6 out of 7 justices on the Supreme Judicial Court ordered the organizers of the parade to let gays march in clear violation of their Constitutional rights. Year after year the veterans who ran the parade fought back. Eventually by a 9 – 0 vote, the United States Supreme Court upheld the Constitutional right of the veterans to control the message of their parade.

The scars left by that many year battle that lasted longer than WWII are still there. The people who are running the parade, veterans, are not the type who like to get pushed around. After having fought so long and hard to protect their rights that they had put on the uniform of the country to preserve they are not going to quickly relinquish this hard-fought victory. When outsiders want to force something on them, they will rebel. It is so much part of their nature, one you would understand if you grew up in South Boston and would have learned the first instinct of many is to fight back when someone tries to push you around especially if they tried before and failed.

Calling them bigots, suggesting they are engaged in “hostile discrimination” as the executive director of MassEquality did, or telling half a story to hold them in disrepute will not change their minds. What will, and what we see happening, is the slow change that is coming about by those who work with them and don’t fight them. It’s the old “you get more with honey than vinegar” approach.

It’s time we learn things change slowly. It’s time we learned that it takes time to heal wounds from past battles. Gays are marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in South Boston; soon, they will be marching openly. It may happen in the mayor’s first term if it isn’t forced; or it may take longer. But some day it will happen but it won’t be through intimidation.

While we wait for that day, I hope everyone who goes to the parade has a top of the morning. 




4 thoughts on “Today South Boston Honors Saint Patrick

  1. Sometimes we cannot see the beehive for the Bees … My Son was born, raised, attended Catholic Schools in South Boston. I was born in Fields Corner but earliest memories replete with Castle Island and messages in a bottle my siblings and I launched across the lagoon to the Sugarbowl. We can be forgiven at that early age for not realizing nautically speaking that those old coke bottles would not traverse open ocean; that they would arrive on the shore at the Sugarbowl. And it was magical for us still. We intuited the physical connection to the open ocean and of course the causeway had channels beneath it connecting all. It was all the same salt water. …… Neighborhoods in a city have this quality of separateness yet an inherent connectedness to the wider city. South Boston, due to geography, history, culture and plain Destiny is a Neighborhood quantum squared in the intensity of its … Presence… to the wider world. It came to represent so many things for so many reasons to so many groups and political interests that it… Southie… got lost somewhere along the way as a … Magical … place ; as a lagoon of hopes and dreams and kindred feelings separate from yet connected to All. …… Let’s storm Southie has been the liberal watchword for many a day now. And South Boston, personified with dignity as well as an identifiably Irish relish and ability for a knock down drag ’em out fight by among others, but notably John “Wacko” Hurley, certainly storms right back. … My parents met during the St.Patrick’s Day Parade in Southie. In its earliest stages it passes my Mother’s alma mater Cardinal Cushing High School. John Hurley just wants a Dignified parade. It is really as simple as that. Kick the beehive and you get a swarm of angry bees. This is South Boston. Matt is right. Honey is always ambrosial ; Vinegar leaves a bitter taste for all …….. My Son and I were living on East Sixth St.with our old Sicilian Landlady in ’92 , the infamous year of the Gay Marchers. We stood at L and East Broadway a prime vantage to see that St.Pat’s Day Parade to end them all. Here came Senate President William Bulger amidst the Roar and the BUZZZZZZZZZZ !!!!!!!!! of that day, amidst the panel sided trucks full of tactical police contingents, amidst the oceanic currents of energy and human vortices of movement and wave and swell and push and pull and Holy Jesus the sky is about to blow a hole in its roof energy of that afternoon ….. Billy, always the Man to seize the main chance on any day was truly in his element of Political Sachem and Irish Witch Doctor on that day. He was literally athletically skipping almost down the route, handing out Roses to the Gold Star Mothers he espied and generally speaking casting so much Pixie dust around him as he processed, that he moved in a glow of enchantment that haloed not just him but all around him. It was a sight almost otherworldly in aspect and will never be forgotten !!! … And Now… Oh My .. Who is this embattled band of Troopers shoulders set and eyes resolutely forward bearing their tattered standard through the smoke and glare and mote spangled air of that momentous day … Yes … The Gay Marchers swept by … And they were …. Magnificent !!!!!!!! … And I tell you why. We caught them on the return route over on East Fourth I think as we had never hopped over to watch the Return. That narrow street funneled them right by us. I recollect some colorful berets and insignia, but no over the top Mardi Gras spectacularity of individual sexual orientation that is John Hurley’s very easily sympathized with nightmare. John wants a dignified, decorous within the limits of the traditional bacchanalian revelries, Event. …. John also saw that day what I saw. These people had serious … GUTS … to March on that day. As they swirled past on East Fourth I remember looking closely at each of as many as I could and my gut feeling was to recognize and acknowledge the … BALLS … mea culpa mea maxima culpa for such an un PC expression … they showed in Marching …. Courage in Adversity’s Face is a distinguishing feature of the South Boston Psyche … Perhaps on some things our Collective Psyche can agree … Perhaps to borrow Columnist Joe Fitzgerald’s apt approximation … the skunk at the garden party … Gays will March in March again in South Boston without being suspected as such … as wanting to be the skunks at the garden party. I assure you that there was no stripe, white or otherwise down their backs in ’92 . … I want to see our new Irish American Mayor Marteeeeeennn’ Walsh 🙂 reprise Senate President Bulger’s Sachem Celebration to all Tribes Courageous on St. Patrick’s Day in Southie … He is uniquely suited to this… So … Let it “Bee !!! ” zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz 🙂

  2. As the Globe becomes more and more irrelevant to the life of the City and its citizens the more bitter is its animus to those not of their liking. They become more petulant and sanctimonious by the edition.

  3. Just watched most of the parade on tv. Looked looked a great day over in Southie.

    Matt, I’m glad that you pointed out the fact the gay people have never been banned. I was informed that when this controversy began, many gays that had enjoyed being in the parade and participating in the parties at people’s home, were disgruntled at the GLIB and other groups leaderships’ insistence on foisting down the throats of the permit holders a message they felt was inconsistent with the ethos of their parade. The gay commissars said tough shit to their own and proceeded in dragging the issue through the courts and depriving Boston of the parade for years.

    The Globe will not point out the exclusion of other groups deemed inappropriate by the Veterans Council (ROAR, Nazis etc.) from the right wing. I wish that Senator Bulger had gone through with the tongue-in-cheek suggestion of widening Morrissey Boulevard in the are of the “Cully”.

    P. Hutch

    1. Hutch, great post. The President of Ireland, Edna Kenny, marched in NY St. Pat’s Parade, and said, “The Parade is about Irishness, not sexuality.” Can’t we have parades without “gay pride” signs, symbols, insignia and banners? The US Supreme Court said, “Of course, we can! Let the parade organizers decide who will march and what messages will be conveyed.” Government officials have no role in telling Parade Organizers what a “proper” parade should look like. Says who? Says the US Supreme Court. Mayors Menino, Walsh and the NY mayor DiBiazi, don’t understand that they have no role in altering the contents of a book, play, movie, demonstration or parade.

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