2015-03-11 / Editorials

St. Patrick’s Day Unity

This year, St. Patrick’s Day will be celebrated for at least the 250th time with a parade up Fifth Avenue, the largest St. Pat’s parade in the world. And though the Catholic saint is the patron of Ireland, all are invited, adding up to a million revelers of all persuasions who are expected to join in the festivities.

First taking place a little over a decade before the Declaration of Independence, the roots of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration are deep, and can be traced to our home borough of Queens. More than a century before the first St. Patrick’s Day parade through Lower Manhattan, in 1657, 30 English colonists who lived in the town of Flushing in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam submitted the Flushing Remonstrance, calling for acceptance of all “sons of Adam,” including Catholics, Lutherans and Quakers – even “Jews, Turks and Egyptians” – to Peter Stuyvesant, the then- Dutch colony’s governor. It is believed that the Flushing Remonstrance and the concomitant acceptance of religious traditions, such as the St. Patrick’s Day parade, influenced the writers of the United States Constitution.

On this coming Tuesday, March 17, all of New York will be Irish, for at least a few hours. Even if you are not on Fifth Avenue, take a moment or two to reflect on, and appreciate, the first St. Patrick’s Day revelers who set a precedent for us to affirm the right to honor and celebrate who we are and where we come from, and to acknowledge our own or any other identity we please whenever that particular parade passes by, reflecting and honoring this country’s founding tenets of inclusion and tolerance.

Setting the tone in the last couple of weeks here in Queens were the St. Pat’s For All parade in Sunnyside and Woodside, where even pets (and around 2,000 paraders) celebrated; and the 40th Queens County St. Patrick’s Day parade in Rockaway, counting approximately 50,000 attendees who also honored the day.

Next Tuesday, there will be a streak of sadness coloring the parade, and most likely a moment of silence, to commemorate the loss of former Grand Marshal Cardinal Edward Egan.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan courageously agreed to be the Grand Marshal this year, in spite of strong objections by some to the fact that an LGBT group will be allowed to march in the parade with their own banner for the very first time.

While there will most likely always be political and religious differences in this grand experiment of inclusion and Democracy we are so fortunate to participate in, we can always resort to peaceful coexistence, and what better way to demonstrate it than to celebrate together? We salute St. Patrick, Irish Americans, and all they have contributed to this country in all spheres. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all.

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