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Jewish World Review March 17, 2000 /10 Adar II, 5760

Paul Greenberg

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A political St. Patrick's -- With apologies to, and quotations from, Finley Peter Dunne, creator of the immortal Mister Dooley, the noted Irish barkeep and sage political philosopher who first observed that politics ain't beanbag:

"Oh, 'tis a tarrible thing,'' said Aloysius J. Hennessey, hurriedly pushing through the swinging doors of Riley's I.R.A. Vegetable Bar & Grill at the corner of Broadway and Apocrypha.

"Thought I'd nivir find you this marnin','' he said to The Hon. Malchi Riley, owner, prop., and his chief creditor. "I had t'push an' shove me way through all the fresh, innocent, dewy-eyed young payple waitin' fir the taverns t'open. Oh, to be young agin and seein' me first green beer.''

"An' that's th' tarrible thing?'' inquired Mr. Riley, dusting off the free lunch.

"Not a-tall, not a-tall,'' said Hennessey, eyeing the food like a man who had suddenly lost his appetite. "It's what's happenin' to th' cawnthry, Misther Riley. An' what's happenin' t'the pretzels?

They look a tad green themselves, if ye ask me.''

"Which no one is doin','' Mr. Riley was quick to observe. "Just be thankful fir th' color iv 'em. They've finally aged in time fir Saint Patrick's Day. And ye needn't worry about th' cawnthry; nobody else does. Why, I haven't seen ye so consarned since we ran out of Old Bushmill's, or was it Jameson's? Ye've not gone to followin' pollyticks again, have ye? It'll upset yer stomach worse thin English cookin'.`

"Oh, 'tis worse than pollyticks,'' said Hennessey. " `Tis rayligion.''

"Wh-a-a-t?'' smiled Mr. Riley. "Rayligion on Saint Patrick's Day? I thought we got a dispensaytion from th' bishop, bless him. He looks like a raysonable man, th' sort that'd keep rayligion in the church where it belongs instead iv out on th' sthreets where 'tis likely t'be run over. Rayligion's too valuable an' sacred a thing, Hennessey, t' be let out on its own. It ought t'be kept in th' sanctuary where 'tis safe and won't have its pocket picked, or under glass like me free lunch -- for display purposes only. Rayligion has its place, but it's got to learn it.''

"Me thoughts exactly, when I have 'em,'' said Hennessey, working up a thirst. "And that's just what worries me. Now that th' prezydential 'liction is over -- th' polls say so -- with onny th' votin' and other formalities left, it looks like a rayligious question t'me insthead iv a pollytickal one -- with th' payple left t'choose between Bob Jones Univarsity and a Boodhist Temple. Those are th' onny choices left since Johnny McCain left th' contest, if he did. He reminds me iv a brother-in-law I once had who couldn't daycide whether he was part iv th' family but kept wirin' home fir money.''

"Rayligion's a quare thing,'' said Mr. Riley philosophically, as he wiped out a beer mug. "Be itself, rayligion's all right. But sprinkle a little pollyticks into it and dinnymite is bran flour compared with it. Alone it prepares a man fir a better life. Combined with pollyticks, it hurries him to it.''

"I'm fir Aloysius Jerome Gore meself,'' said Hennessey. "He's th' onny man who can clean up th' mess he's made. What I say is, niver elict a rayformer who doesn't know all th' ins and out iv what he needs to rayform. If ye want a safe fixed, find a good safecracker, I say. Besides, he didn't do it, he's nivir goin' t'do it again, and Blind Janet nivir saw him do it.''

"Have ye stopped dhrinkin' again?'' asked Mr. Riley. "You don't sound right in the head, goin' around defendin' pollyticians.''

"Ye're too hard on pollyticians,'' said Hennessey. "Ye sound like ivrybody else who has to work fir a livin'. Pollyticians are really joost like th' rest iv us, only more inventive. We've got consciences, they've got lawyers. We'd be th' same if we had a law degree and a seat in the legislachoor. On today iv all days, ye should show some charity, Misther Riley, whither it's tax-deductible or not. I believe that if ye'd turn th' light on in even the darrkest pollytician's heart ye'd find a good rayson fir what they'd done, like needin' th' money. I'll not hear a word against Bill Clinton today. The man's no saint, but at least he's a Dimmycrat. So show a litle charity fir Saint Paddy's sake. Ye do know who Saint Patrick was, don't ye?`

"Iv course I do,'' said Mr. Riley. "Ye're refarrin t'the Frenchman who was brave enough to go t'Ireland whin not even a snake would live there.''

"Careful, careful, Mr. Riley,'' said Hennessey, "or I'll take me credhit elsewhere. I'm soorprised at ye, soundin' so sour on a day when th' verry rivers run green, at least in Chicago, where th' mayor's always named Daley. Think iv all ye've got t'be grateful fir on a day when th' whole wurrld's Irish, or wishin' it was.''

"Right ye are,'' said Mr. Riley. "There's no wan more proud iv th' Irish than this son of County Mayo. I've often thought of goin' back t'see me birthplace, but prefarrin' a more payceful way iv life, last year I vaycationed in Kosovo. Not that things aren't payceful in the old cawnthry, with th' Protystants and Cath'licks strollin' arm in arm afther Sunday sarvices, so as t' keep aych other from reachin' fir a weapon.''

"Which reminds me,'' said Hennessey, "maybe if we could get th' prezydent iv Bob Jones Univarsity to march in a Saint Patrick's Day Parade arm in arm with sawm of those payple from th' Boodhist temple in saffron robes baytin' a dhrum, and what with Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani and George Dubya and all those awther fine Irish pollyticians turnin' out fir th' occasion . . .''

"Wanderful idea,'' said Mr. Riley, preparing to pour a tall green one on the house. "But did ye say this was goin' t'be a Saint Patrick's Day Parade, a pollytickal event or an old-fashioned, bare-fisted donnybrook? And how can ye tell th' diffrance?''

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