Every year, millions of people from around the world emigrate to the United States seeking out the so-called “American dream.” But for one young Irishman who introduced himself as “Paddy,” that dream turned into a nightmare almost from the moment he arrived on American soil. As we sat in a New York cafe, he bid me to listen to his sad narrative.
Ireland, of course, is a member of the rapidly decaying European Union. Paddy said that back in his home town of Dublin, the economic situation was so bad it was either emigrate or go hungry.
“I left because of the poverty, you know? I sold some of me things, left my girlfriend. She was devastated. But there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t starve to death, could I?”
Paddy said he joined a group of other like-minded young men who were similarly down on their luck.
“It was lot, actually. I’d say there were about a hundred of us altogether. We all saved up our money for tickets and left for the States. Every last one of us was sure he’d make a fortune.”
Shortly upon reaching “Yankee-land,” as he called it, Paddy said he and his new companions suddenly ran into trouble. Possibly due to visa requirements, the group of young men were given a choice, so to speak, to join the army. Not knowing what to do and unable to pay for the advice of an immigration lawyer, Paddy signed up and ended up getting sent to war.
“At first I was nervous,” Paddy said as he lit another cigarette with the previous one. “Our officers tried to reassure us. I remember our commanding general, General Meagher was his name, Irish too in fact. He told us that there was nothing to worry about. We’d all get benefits if we got injured.”
As it happened, Paddy lost his leg in the war. He rolled up his pant leg to show me what appeared to be a poorly constructed, wooden prosthesis.
“They ya go,” he said. “That’s all I’s got from the army.”
The wooden leg serves as a grave reminder of how America has abandoned its wounded veterans since the early 2000’s.
I asked Paddy what he would say to other young Irishmen back in his home country if he knew that they too were considering emigrating to the US.
“Take my advice,” he answered. “I’d not have you comin’ to America. There’s nothing here but war.”
I took that as an obvious reference to the civil unrest and increasing militarization of police in the United States. I decided to ask him one more thing- where he would prefer to live.
“God curse America,” he answered. “I wish I was back home in dear old Dublin.”
I thanked Paddy for his time, paid for us both, and walked out of the cafe and into the bustling New York street.