A proud parade and the heart of the question

If you had the luck of the Irish

You’d be sorry and wish you were dead . . .

When John Lennon sang those biting lyrics in 1972, he was lamenting about how the Irish suffered for decades under British rule and oppression. In the mid-19th century, the potato famine drove more than a million starving Irish from their homeland, seeking a better life in America.

Not that the Irish were in clover when they landed here. Newspaper classified ads read, “No Irish need apply.” They were quickly branded as dirty, animalistic criminals stealing the jobs of real Americans. Sound familiar?

Cut to 2018. On Saturday, the Irish will march proud and free up Fifth Avenue in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, with millions watching and cheering on the sidelines and TV.

Organizers have grown more tolerant over the years, finally allowing a gay group to march under its own banner in 2015. While some hailed the decision, others grumbled, including Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, who called it “contemptible.” The parade continues to become more inclusive, despite complaints from those for whom tolerance seems to be a dirty word.

“The St. Patrick’s Day parade is a New York City tradition, but for years Irish LGBT New Yorkers could not show their pride,” said Bill de Blasio, who as mayor boycotted the parade until 2016. “Finally, they can celebrate their heritage by marching in a parade that now represents progress and equality.”

The spirited and hopefully peaceful parade, which dates to 1762, will run from 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. from 44th to 79th Streets on Fifth Avenue.

For the Irish, as well as women, gays, immigrants and those of all religions and colors, the words of John F. Kennedy, our first Irish-Catholic president, still ring true: “I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience . . . The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.”

Or as Lennon sang:

If you could keep voices like flowers

There’d be shamrock all over the world.

Sounds like a plan. Enjoy the parade!

Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.