No One Cares About Columbus Day Anymore
Ever since I first started writing on the internet, 12 million years ago, I have put out a yearly plea to my fellow Italian-Americans to stop with the Columbus Day shit, on account of the fact that it is super-embarrassing. Sometimes I just reuse the same one over and over again because I want to say the same thing every year: Columbus was a rapist and a genocidal maniac and having our big ethnic celebration on a day dedicated to him is an insult to all of us who are not rapists or genocidal maniacs. I'd say also those of us who are particularly good at navigating but I got lost driving to a mall I used to work at a couple weeks ago, so I'm not one to talk.
Anyway! Fingers crossed, but I have yet to see one op-ed from some Knights of Columbus cafone whining about how it's actually a beautiful celebration of our heritage, and usually those suckers start a week out. In fact, pretty much all I've seen are articles about how various towns and cities are celebrating Indigenous People's Day instead, which is just wonderful. Or articles about how parades and stuff are not happening this year because coronavirus — which, you know, you take what you can get.
As I've said before, I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I don't get why our ancestors picked him as their mascot and why so many are still attached to their idea of him — which really does have absolutely nothing to do with the reality of him as a person/monster. The Columbus they believe in is about as real as Santa Claus. Or St. Christopher, who it turns out maybe did not actually exist even though I'm pretty sure people still wear those medals.
As I wrote previously:
I have a certain amount of understanding of and empathy for why they did that at the time. I honestly do. Especially because I'm reasonably sure that a bunch of poor Italian immigrants didn't know anything of Columbus's genocidal tendencies and only thought of him as a way to claim their right to be here, in some way. They thought that by taking a piece of American history for their own, people here would start to see them as Americans too. They'd see them as having just as much a right to be here as the Anglo-Saxons who invaded the country centuries later. It was a move that, more than anything else, was about survival. "You guys like Columbus, right? You think he was a good guy? He was an Italian! Like us!"
This was especially important during a time when Italian-Americans were considered suspiciously un-American -- when it was assumed we were anarchists, socialists or mafiosi, or even just too strange and quaint and superstitious and brutish and "swarthy" to ever be "Real Americans."
Each year, there's less and less pushback, each year more statues come tumbling down. Each year, there are fewer people out there that I have to convince we have way more to be proud of than freaking Columbus, and that we don't need his non-discovery of America to validate our being here. I mean, come on — we invented pizza. We should be able to dine out on that alone, no pun intended, for the next several hundred years. Everyone, I believe, is very glad we did the whole world the favor of inventing all of the best food in it.
The more Columbus disappears, the more untethered he becomes to our cultural identity, the more clear it is that he's not really necessary to it at all. Why brag about Columbus when we've got Anthony Fauci and the increasingly less embarrassing cast of Jersey Shore?
I'm not saying there are not still some out there who won't let go. Of course there are. They'll be around for a while. But when it feels like we're sliding back to the Gilded Age half the time, it's nice to see a few things changing and getting better here and there.
And with that, here is your OPEN THREAD.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse