The Irish In Us

June 18th, 2015

“Oh, you get colder – you get older every day.”


As published in The Daily News, June 19, 2015, and in The Memphis News, June 20-26, 2015



Recently, Ireland became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. Ireland. Stereotypically, a country where conservative is a matter of degree not choice, where killing each other over religion isn’t current news but DNA, where progress is measured in pints.


Many of my fellow boomers wonder what happened.

In the sixties, we were going to change the world and trust no one over 30. In our sixties, we consider every change a threat and trust no one under 30. We think of our parents as the greatest generation. The current generation thinks of us as largely irrelevant and our priorities to be their greatest disappointment.


By God, our country was white and Christian, our leaders were male and straight, marriage vows were sacred, socialism was communism, people knew their place, and those who differed were going straight to hell.

By the way, our country is browning, our president is black, women are increasingly in fact what they’ve been in secret – in charge. Church pews and closets are emptying faster than Caitlyn Jenner ran in the 1976 Olympics, and the divorce rate is 50% because marriage should be based on love and respect, not sanctimonious expectation. As for that socialism and commie thing – we’re on Social Security and Medicare and our legislators have subsidized insurance, so maybe we’d best leave that alone. As for knowing your place, younger Americans know that’s something earned rather than given, something based on character rather than color – you know – like that quote and quaint notion from when we were their age.


Because of all of the above, boomers started the Tea Party – largely old, white, male and angry – and some paid attention – largely those who hold onto to power and influence by playing to fear and frustration with their money  – recognizing that older people vote more.

Hence, while same-sex marriage is legal in a majority of states, Tennessee fights it. While 51% of our state is female, the boys have 83% of the legislature. While the majority of adults are 18 to 45, the legislature averages well above 50. While the vast majority of us want it, insurance for 250,000 working Tennesseans can’t get out of committee. 

And nationally, while barely one in ten Americans approve of Congress, old Americans and old money keep sending them back.

Which brings us back to the Emerald Isle. Same-sex marriage was passed because they got out the youth vote. Young people, there and here – conservative, liberal and independent – believe in equality, in fairness, in human dignity, in civil rights, in progress – you know, what we used to believe in and what scares the hell out of us now.

Ireland is a wake up shot of Bushmills. As soon as younger adults stop being disgusted and start voting, as soon as the real majority realizes they can move us forward in the 21st century, the ruling minority anchored in the 20th becomes history.

I’m a Memphian, and I can’t wait.


I'm a Memphian by Dan Conaway

If you don’t read it, I’ll read it to you.

The book is available in print online and all over town and now in audio online at Amazon, Audible and iTunes, read by the author – columns, comments and character references for a city filled with it and often absolutely full of it. Take a look or a listen.



Jana: Thank you for recognizing our common humanity.

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