So: me, Irish, in the mix but not in a prominent way. My wife, Irish, much more prominent. She looks Irish, and has in fact been mistaken for native Irish on sight while traveling in southern Europe. (I was once mistaken for Mexican in Mexico by an American tourist, but that's neither here nor there.) The other major nationality in my wife's background is English, and clearly that evokes a whole lot of complicated interplay, much moreso than German-Irish. She's descended from both the oppressors and the oppressed, and she knows the history on both sides pretty well. She owns her Irishness a lot more than me, to the extent that it's not even a contest.
This has come to light over the years in various ways which caught me off guard at first, I admit. My wife and I both enjoy being sports spectators, and have our teams we root for and teams we root against, but my wife has always been much more invested in college sports than I ever was or will be. Early on I discovered her antipathy towards Notre Dame, which didn't really faze me. Nobody in my family went there or hyper-identifies with ND, but I know they're a big enough deal that there are just naturally going to be boosters who have no official connection to the school at all, and haters who have no real skin in the game either. (As a New York Yankees fan who knows other fans who've never lived anywhere near the Bronx and knows haters who could not care less about the entire American League except for despising the Evil Empire, I have a framework for understanding this.) But I was soon informed that it was specifically the pugnacious leprechaun mascot of Notre Dame that drew my (future) wife's scorn. She explained that as an Irish woman she found "Fighting Irish" to be as offensive as the tomahawk chop chant at Seminoles games might be to a Native American. And she was kind of, sort of, a little bit winking and kidding, because she's a person with reasonably clear-eyed perspective on how being the most downtrodden of Europeans still leaves one a lot better off than Native Americans, or African-Americans, &c. She's not claiming to be the most persecuted minority, all the more indignant because others get all the attention. Or if she is claiming that, she's doing so ironically. But also with a grain of truth, a kind-of-sort-of-NOT kidding. It's complicated, but basically I support the validity of her hating on Notre Dame as much as she wants.
And then there's St. Patrick's Day, which some Irish-Americans genuinely seem to enjoy, as a chance for them to flaunt their awesomeness while everyone around them adopts (or co-opts) that awesomeness in an exuberant way. And some Irish-Americans (not to mention some non-Irish-Americans) see St. Patrick's Day as kind of cheesy and lame, an amateur night when the last thing you would want to do is go out amongst the crowds of drunken yahoos carrying on. Certainly the latter take on the holiday is easy enough to understand when the shamrock-shaped novelty sunglasses and their ilk start to appear in retail outlets across the land. It's a harbinger of spring, granted, but a somewhat tacky one.
My wife recently, a couple weeks ago at most, had taken the younger kids to the shopping mall and told me about the excursion later that evening, mentioning that the St. Paddy's displays of gaudy green junk were out in full force. I sympathized. She said that some of the hats and t-shirts attempting to be edgy were, in fact, pretty offensive.
"Don't you mean ... O'Fensive?" I asked, taking great pains to explain the capitalization and punctuation that comprised my out-loud joke.
I don't know why she puts up with me sometimes, I really and truly don't. Must be the luck of the Irish.