From time to time I’ve made many disparaging remarks about the Scots-Irish, some of whom I count as ancestors. These range from their inauspicious (but prophetic) arrival in this land to discussing Grady McWhiney’s research, which I find priceless.
I think that understanding this ethnic group is crucial to understanding these United States more than any other group of people who have made their way here, and that includes the people who were here already. Their idea of life and society has grievous weaknesses that have become all too clear in the world we find ourselves in, but it has its strengths too: its emphasis on personal freedom, the sanctity of property rights, their strong faith in God which has compensated for much of trashiness that runs through the culture, and their willingness to fight, which is a liability in times of peace but invaluable in times of war. To a large extent the left’s agenda these days consists in negating the Scots-Irish heritage altogether, and that’s the source of most of the conflict in our political life. I’m surprised that (Elizabeth Warren notwithstanding) the left hasn’t used McWhiney’s hypothesis–which was put to its highest and best expression in Thomas Sowell’s Black Rednecks and White Liberals–against their perennial opponents, but to admit that one ethnic group has the grievous problems the Scots-Irish do would imply that others might too, which would wreck the whole artificial construct that the left has put together on race and identity.
Having lived among these people, if I had to pick one illustration of their idea it would be a little story from Contes Dramatiques, which my pied noir French teacher back in Palm Beach used to try to teach us brats the language of Pascal and Bossuet. It comes from Brittany, another interesting offshoot of the Celtic British Isles (or really the Romano-Celtic British Isles). During the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West, Brittany was settled from Britain and, as Peter Salway dryly noted in Roman Britain, the resulting “Bretons were to become such a thorn in the flesh of central authority in medieval and modern France”.
The tale concerns five dwarves without much to do. So they occupied themselves by dancing under the moonlight, singing their song:
Lundi, mardi, mercredi;
Lundi, mardi, mercredi.
Which, of course, simply means “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday”. It wasn’t much of a song but they were happy with it.
A hunchback named Pierre came along and realised their song wasn’t complete. So he proposed the following song to upgrade it:
Lundi, mardi, mercredi;
Jeudi, et puis vendredi.
(Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday;
Thursday, and then Friday.)
The dwarves were happy; it rhymed and not only that went with the tune they already had. So they pressed the hunchback to name his price, and the hunchback asked that his back be straightened out. The dwarves obliged and the hunchback was no more, his back was straight.
The dwarves continued with their new, improved song until another hunchback named Jean came along. He too pointed out to them their song wasn’t complete; so he tried to get them to sing the following:
Lundi, mardi, mercredi,
Jeudi, et puis vendredi,
Samedi, et puis dimanche.
(Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday, and then Friday,
Saturday, and then Sunday.)
Jean thought he had completed their song, but all he succeeded in doing was to make the dwarves angry. The new line didn’t rhyme and messed up the music as well. So they gave Jean another hunch to his back and sent him back to his wife.
The lesson of this tale is this: with the Celts, you can be right all you want and your idea make sense, but unless it fits their existing agenda as they see it, you’ll end up with a big mess on your hands!