Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · Dear Old Ireland
. . . .

Dear Old Ireland

Robert Downes - October 11th, 2007
Have you ever been to Moyvore? Not many people have. It‘s a tiny village in County Westmeath in the very center of Ireland. It‘s not on any tourist route -- there’s nothing much to do there. It’s an anonymous place of lumpy fields, populated mostly by sheep and cows.
Yet it is was from here in 1850 that my great, great (great?) grandfather, Michael Downes, emigrated to the United States. I am his 259th descendant.
If you have more than a dash of Irish blood in ye, chances are that someday you’ll travel to the Emerald Isle in search of your roots. The place is teeming with American visitors, packed into tour buses.
We Americans mob Ireland searching for clues to our past in the picturesque pubs, which are as lacquered and ornate as antique music boxes. We look hopefully to the heather, the occasional thatched-roof cottage, and the rocky walls of the old country, seeking signs of our roots. It’s an impulse we Irish-Americans have, similar to the need of every good Muslim to visit the holy city of Mecca at least once in a lifetime, or the quasi-expectation of every American parent to take their kids to Disneyworld.
Maybe we have that inbred, instinctual need to return because there is so much pain in Ireland’s past. When Michael Downes left Ireland in 1850 as a man still in his 20s, it was at the tail end of the five-year Potato Famine that killed one million people, with another million fleeing the country.
Ireland’s British overlords actually shipped large amounts of food out of the country during the famine so as not to ‘coddle’ a starving people they considered to be lazy, and perhaps even subhuman.
Many peasant farmers were also evicted from their homes at this time so that the land could be used to raise profitable cattle -- tossed out like unwanted animals with nowhere to go. Thus, writer Jonathan Swift wrote that the roads across Ireland were strewn with corpses, their mouths stained green from trying to live by eating grass.
It was an early form of ethnic cleansing from which Ireland has never really recovered. The scenes of countless crumbling stone houses which we find so charming today once housed scenes of utter desperation. How many of these green fields are riddled with bones?
Needless to say, I’m grateful that my distant kin chose to bail on Ireland for a new land. He arrived on American shores in a ‘coffin ship,’ risking, cholera, typhus and drowning, and worked on a river boat on the Grand River before finding a job on a farm outside Grand Rapids (an area which looks much like Westmeath, by the way). His brother, James, made it to Buenos Aires in Argentina, where today I have a relative named Juan Downes.
The Irish who emigrated to America were scorned and reviled on these shores, the same as Mexican migrants are today by many. They were considered lazy, shiftless, ignorant Micks. They were persecuted by an anti-Catholic, nativist political party called the ‘Know Nothings’. No different than the Mexicans today, they were given the dirty, dangerous, scut work -- they were cowboys, miners, canal diggers, farm workers, factory hands and soldiers, flooding America with a million immigrants. No doubt, some of the ancestors of those persecuted immigrants look down their noses at the Mexican migrant workers today.
Thirty years ago, African-American writer Alex Haley celebrated his own beginnings with the publication of Roots, accompanied by a television miniseries. Haley had spent 10 years researching his slave past, and even journeyed to a village in Gambia, where his ancestor Kunta Kinte had been abducted in the 1750s. Apparently, there was quite a celebration when he showed up.
I’m sorry to say that I didn’t share my own Alex Haley moment with a return to Moyvore. After a week of bike-camping along the hideously narrow roads of western Ireland in early September, I took the coward’s way out and elected to forgo dodging more cars and trucks on the extra 50-mile trip to my ancestors’ homestead.
I had hoped to ambush my distant relatives with a write-up of what happned to their lost kin Michael and James -- the internet tells me there are still family members in the town.
Instead, I contented myself with the scenery, passing by a few miles to the south on the train from Galway to Dublin. Moyvore -- maybe I‘ll see you next time around.

Robert Downes is on a four-and-a-half month trip around the world. Look for more foreign dispatches in upcoming columns.
 
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