What We Learned from Gates-Crowley Flap

We are all part-Irish exiles in the land of picnic tables

By Sara K. Smith
|  Thursday, Jul 30, 2009  |  Updated 4:40 AM EDT
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There are no heroes or villains in this story -- just three ordinary men trying to enjoy a beer outdoors, if weather permits.

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Today will mark an incredibly important and solemn moment in the annals of interhuman diplomacy, for it is the day that President Obama brings together a police officer and a professor over carefully selected beers to talk about their feelings.

Nearly two weeks ago, Cambridge police sergeant James Crowley arrested Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. on his front porch. Since then we have learned so many things -- about life, and love, and racial harmony, and proper police procedure, and how a single randy fourth-century Irishman was indirectly responsible for this whole event!

[Gates] went to Trinity College in Dublin to have his DNA analyzed. There he found that he shared 10 of the 11 DNA matches with offspring of Niall of the Nine Hostages, the fourth century warlord who created one of the dominant strains of Irish genealogy because he had so many offspring.
Ironically, James Crowley, whose name in Gaelic means "hardy warrior," is also descended from the same line as Gates, having very close links to Niall of the Nine Hostages.

So if you want to blame somebody for Gates-gate, you might as well start with this Niall character rather than poor Lucia Whalen, whose 911 call revealed her not to be a racially paranoid busybody but rather a vaguely concerned citizen who wasn't even sure there was a crime taking place when she called the cops.

And if you're looking for somebody to feel outraged at, why not start with our president, Barack Obama? He might not even let his honored White House guests indoors!

[W]eather permitting, the three men will meet at a picnic table outside the Oval Office.

Imagine if Germany and the Allies came to Versailles to sign the treaty ending World War I and were told, "Enh, skip the Hall of Mirrors! Let's just go sign it in the back yard, over some beers." That is approximately the level of offense we're talking about here.

May the picnic table beer summit be the end of an era of misunderstanding, and not the beginning of an era of insult.

Etiquette expert Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.

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