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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
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Larry Donnelly One man in the pub wore a T-shirt that read 'Trump 2024 - no more bullshit'

Our columnist is visiting friends in Cape Cod and taking the political temperature in the US.

CHATHAM, MA, USA – I write from the deck of my oldest, best friend’s beautiful home on Cape Cod where we have been for a glorious couple of nights. It’s been ages since I was “down the Cape” – to put it in the Boston vernacular – a picturesque peninsula where thousands of Irish people spent memorable J-1 summers working as nannies, dishing up breakfasts in busy restaurants or utilising their accents to maximise tips from thirsty tourists in bars in quaint towns like Dennis, Harwich and Yarmouth.

There appeared to be far fewer Irish university students on Cape Cod this June. I am not sure exactly why that is the case. In my view, it’s a shame and I have no doubt that the women and men who have regaled me with cherished tales of summers that were formative for them at multiple levels would concur. Maybe next year will see a reversion to normal.

Boston born

Prior to travelling to the Cape, we spent several days in the wonderful city of my birth. Strolling around the harbour and looking back and forth between Logan Airport and the city skyline on one stunning afternoon, I said to my wife, “It just doesn’t get better than this.”

Ireland is now my home, but Boston will eternally hold a singular place in my heart, despite all of the changes, for good and for ill, I spot on visits back.

By way of example, we all tend to complain bitterly about the price of eating and drinking out in Ireland. Yet anyone who has been in the United States recently, perhaps particularly the northeast, would attest that it could be a lot worse.

sand-dunes-cape-cod-national-seashore-golden-light Alamy Stock Photo Sunset on a beach in Cape Cod. Alamy Stock Photo

My experience over the past ten days is that a relaxing and enjoyable lunch for two adults and one child costing less than $100 (€91) is a rare commodity in Massachusetts. It wasn’t always this way, and I really cannot fathom how residents who don’t earn extremely high salaries manage to live here.

We crossed the Atlantic for a special celebration: the wedding of our dear friends, Jim Kennedy and Kathleen Joyce, two proud Irish Americans. Jim and I have known each other since we were little kids; Kathleen and I did our undergraduate and law degrees together at the College of the Holy Cross and Suffolk University Law School.

Their careers are in government and politics. Jim is chief legal counsel to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Kathleen is the chairwoman of the Boston Licencing Board.

As such, a number of the state’s leading elected officials were in attendance and it was nice for this political animal to bend ears and take the temperature.

Far more importantly, though, it was a joyous occasion for two of the finest people I have ever come across and a tremendous privilege to be present at the festivities with a crew of my closest pals. It was a day that we often joked would never arrive for Jim, who was formerly a resolute bachelor. But Kathleen, unsurprisingly to those acquainted with her, captured his heart. For us romantics, it was lovely to see two individuals approaching their 50th birthdays take the plunge for the first time. It is never too late. Trite, but true.

Taking the temperature

I have expressed my fears for America and its future for myriad reasons previously in this space. It was, then, hugely refreshing to meet a young immigrant to the US from the Dominican Republic who drove us in an Uber from my boyhood home just south of Boston to the city centre. He made it clear that this was a sideline gig and that he had both a short- and a long-term plan for achieving his American Dream.

He mentioned at the outset that his journeys to the Dominican Republic had ceased for the moment and he was working every hour God gave him.

The immediate objective is to buy a food truck and sell the kind of delicious meat and fish dishes he grew up with in the Caribbean. Simultaneously, already a qualified electrician and carpenter, he is focused on acquiring property, improving it and selling it on at a profit to ensure that his children can access educational opportunities and that he and his wife will have a secure, and potentially early, retirement.

As he sketched out his vision, all I could think of was what a compelling rebuke his was to some on the political right in the US who allege that immigrants, especially those from nations to the south, are almost invariably freeloaders. In their estimation, these newcomers are determined to live on social welfare benefits and refuse to assimilate or learn the English language.

That plenty with this bigoted, pessimistic disposition are Irish Americans, for whom immigration to a new land is a not so distant reality, is galling.

When we disembarked, my wife and I wished him the very best of luck. He thanked us and replied, “There is no Plan B. I will get there.” I pray that he does.

In this vein, yet on a profoundly depressing note, I was having a few beers in an Irish pub in Hyannis when a man around my age walked in sporting a provocative t-shirt. It read as follows: “TRUMP 2024: NO MORE BULLSHIT.”

He indicated that he had worn it deliberately as he sauntered down the main street of Cape Cod’s largest municipality in the expectation that someone would challenge him on it.

It perplexes me why someone would be so purposefully belligerent. That said, and even allowing for the fact that I am relaying an anecdote, this Trump die-hard is far from alone.

santa-barbara-usa-14th-june-2023-donald-trump-supporters-rally-in-santa-barbara-ca-on-june-14-2023-following-the-former-presidents-arraignment-on-a-37-counts-indictment-related-to-his-handling Alamy Stock Photo Trump supporters Alamy Stock Photo

And what is truly baffling to me is that so many of them are struggling economically, the sort of citizens and voters who Donald Trump, deep down, cares not an iota about. I only hope that some of them will eventually wake up to the prescient words delivered in an epic rant by another Bostonian, Kenny Casey, the lead singer of the Dropkick Murphys.

“You’re being duped by the greatest swindler in the history of the world. You’re being duped by a bunch of grifters and billionaires who don’t give a shit about you or your family. They care about their tax breaks and the money they put in their pocket.”

Amen is all I can say to that.

These are just a handful of my dozens of musings about America in 2023 at the tail end of what has been a fantastic trip. In sum, it’s a country of infinite contradictions, contrasts and possibilities; it’s a country I love dearly; and it’s a country where, sadly, I don’t believe I could live anymore.

Larry Donnelly is a Boston lawyer, a Law Lecturer at the University of Galway and a political columnist with


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