Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When Wit Meets Wisdom

I must confess, I am not a funny person. I have never been good at telling jokes, especially in speeches. I am quite envious of anyone that can put an audience at ease with  a couple good funny opening lines. I have learned this is not my skill so it's not even worth trying it. I'll just make everyone feel awkward. But when working in a group project with people who are good at humor, I have learned it is best to take advantage of it. In the same way it would be stupid for me to try to be funny, it would be equally ridiculous to ask those people not to be humorous.
For our debates today we were split into groups of five. On my team, we had two of the funniest people on our trip. Both could easily do stand up comedy and constantly have us on the floor laughing. So when we were organizing our arguments, it seemed best to have all the facts in place, but weave in some more humorous comments. So our opening statement began with, "You know what really grinds my gears? They don't have lucky charms here! You know where else they don't have lucky charms? Europe. You know what else really poisons my waterhole? The move Leprechaun; it wasn't even filmed here! You know where it was filmed? Outer space." Not your typical opening argument when you are trying to prove why the Irish need to be understood as Europeans and not just Irish. But believe me, for these two it worked.
From there we were able to lay out some really solid arguments on how Europe has influenced Ireland: invasions in history, European Union and the euro, sharing of cultures, etc. It was interesting, since we were able to combine wit with the solid facts, it put our opposing team off. It's hard to know how to respond to a statement like, "If someone is Irish when they go into the bathroom, what are they when they are in the bathroom? European!"
But even our more serious arguments about the role Europe has played in the shaping of Irish culture was fascinating. Yes, they have many very distinct things that make them Irish. The way I have come to understand it is, in many ways, the countries of Europe are similar to the states in the United States: distinct, with their own governments, history, culture, traditions, accents, etc. But in many ways, so intertwined they cannot be completely separated. You can't understand one state without studying all of US history. In the same way, you can't understand Irish culture, without seeing how all of Europe has impacted them.
Here I go again... my bad. The debate is over so I'm sure you don't want to hear all of that. But I hope you found it a little interesting. And since the main focus of the Irish Studies Program is identity, these are the things we have been talking about. What is the identity of the Irish? What is my identity as an American? What else really defines me?

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