Crossing the line

By the Irish Echo

It’s that time of year again. Come the end of February, and as March brings with it the promise of spring and St. Patrick’s Day, we have the usual torrent of gibberish and insult directed at any and all things Irish.

Leprechauns, sober and otherwise, depictions of Irish and Irish Americans in similar “otherwise” mode, Irish jokes, liquids suddenly green that never should be, and so forth and so on.

Much of this stuff is survivable nonsense. Every nationality, race and ethnic group has to bear the burden of stereotyping and, in truth, the situation for the Irish has improved in recent times.

This improvement has been in part due to a greater vigilance on the part of individuals and organizations who are quick to admonish even while seeking to educate.

And yet, even now, somebody deep in a corporate dark hole managed to come up with a television commercial, for the Denny’s restaurant chain, that used Ireland’s Great Hunger as a selling point for fries and pancakes.

What was he, she, they thinking?

Valiant efforts have been made in the last fifteen years in particular to place the Great Hunger in its proper perspective in terms of America’s history. Many school kids and college students now learn about the famine, its devastating effect on Ireland, and its central role in the emergence of what we know as Irish America.

The Great Hunger was an appalling occurrence, regardless of which side anyone falls on the argument as to whether or not it constituted a form, or degree, of genocide.

Quite simply, if you are going to invoke a tragedy on the scale of the famine to flog your products, why stop at Ireland’s greatest one?

How about a Biafra angle on the fries, an Ethiopian one for the pancakes. And why stop at famine. Haiti is for sure a most compelling catch line right now, and the Holocaust will never lack for name recognition.

Denny’s, thankfully, has seen the error of its ways.

Perhaps it should make amends by making a contribution to an aid organization in the front lines battling hunger. Concern or GOAL come to mind.

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