The word diaspora is tossed around by the Irish media pretty frequently these days. The term refers to people scattered far and wide, living away from their ancestral homeland. The Irish Diaspora is estimated at 80 to 100 million people worldwide.
I first took note of the word about five years ago when I was watching a documentary about the Irish diaspora. The term struck a chord with me. Initially as I watched I totally disassociated myself from any diaspora, thinking it referred to people whose ties to Ireland dated back over many generations.
Realizing diaspora is an ‘in vogue’ word in Ireland, I researched the term online. I quickly came to realize I am part of this infamous scattering of Irish people across the world. I decided then and there I disliked the word. I am still not sure if I like or loathe it.
Every time I say it I think in alliteration.
“The desperate diaspora” reverberates in my mind.
When I hear the word I feel left out, as if I am not good enough,
not Irish enough anymore.
I often feel people in Ireland don’t know what to make of us diasporians (I am making up words again). As an Irish-born, American immigrant visiting my homeland, I am not sure if I really fit in.
The Irish are deeply conflicted about immigrants. I know most Irish people will contradict me, saying they welcome us with open arms. We’ll always be considered Irish in our homeland.
That is, you’ll always be Irish as long as you’re sitting down having a laugh, sharing a drink or two, and joining in the sing-song. The minute you try to talk about Irish life, politics, or career, you are shut down with a smile and a quick change of topic. Interviewing for a job is not for the faint of heart, and whatever you do, don’t even think about offering advice.
Years ago I interviewed for a job in Dublin. At that time my husband and I were seriously contemplating returning to live in Ireland. One woman on the interview panel was clearly not impressed with my American experience.
“I see you are in America, now,” she said with an insincere smile.
“Oh no! Here we go!” I said to myself.
And there we went alright. At least ten times during the interview, she told me:
“But you’re an American now.”
In her mind I was part of this “desperate diaspora” who, if hired, might interfere with the Irish way of doing things. She imagined me telling everyone “but this is how we do it in America.”
I felt like Tom Beringer’s character in the movie “The Field” with the Bull McCabe roaring at me:
“Go home, Yank. Go home.”
And that I did. I came back to America. At that point in time my American evolution was incomplete. I could not say I was coming home to America. With hindsight, I can now say it was a blessing I came home to the States, reclaiming my place as part of the Irish diaspora, dispersed to the four corners of the earth.
So how do I feel about this word many years later. I still don’t know if I like it or loathe it. Yet whatever my feelings may be, I have no choice but to accept my reality. I am part of the Great Irish Diaspora.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)