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Columbus Defenders Really Just Phoning It In This Year
I don't even think they want to hear from themselves
Happy Indigenous People’s Day!
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.
In fact, I'm reusing an already reused article right now. So meta, right? I actually wrote the the paragraph above on Columbus Day in 2020, and then again last year. And this year it's pretty much the same. There are no-op-eds, least of all in the New York Times , which at one time diligently published one every year. A Google News search reveals that the only real mentions of it are in headlines about what is and is not open, or about the small parades held and attended by the few Italian-Americans who insist on continuing to be embarrassing about this.
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The few creaking gasps I have seen have been nothing if not half-hearted. From The New York Post’s editorial board, we have “It’s Columbus Day, Not The Woke Rebrand,” in which the tabloid chastises us “lefties” for not … having a conversation with them about Columbus?
Writing Columbus Day out of the record is an attempt to write complexity out of the record.
The Genoan did great things and awful ones, but he changed the course of world history, and his actions were central to the founding of this nation.
Slyly renaming the holiday doesn’t retroactively undo his wrongs. Or hide his achievements.
It merely deprives us of an opportunity to see the past in all its complexities, and to have an honest conversation — which the woke left constantly calls for but never wants to engage in — around Columbus.
It’s enforced amnesia, not truth and reconciliation.
They know we can talk about things without needing to have statues and holidays about them, right?
Still, there’s a big difference between these “Okay fine, he was bad but can we still have the holiday and pretend it is supposed to be a day for nuanced conversations about a genocidal maniac?” and the full-throated “How dare you say he was not a great man!” or tearful “What Columbus Day means to me” defenses of yore.
There has been something of an attempt lately, on the Right, to justify the actions of Columbus by claiming that the indigenous people he brutalized were, themselves, quite brutal. Because apparently, if they were good and decent people, they would have welcomed their new overlords with open arms.
This is the take put forth in both Prager U’s pro-Columbus time-travel cartoon, as Dok explained earlier this year:
Columbus patiently explains that the “place I discovered was beautiful, but it wasn’t exactly a paradise of civilization, and the native people were far from peaceful.” Oh sure, some tribes were peaceful, but others were “vicious warring cannibals,” and that all the ills of humanity could be found among the people he met. Ergo, Columbus tells the wide-eyed kids (they’re just drawn that way), people who think the pre-Columbian Americas were a “peaceful Paradise” are “misinformed — or lying.” And probably the latter, since liberals lie about everything.
As well as in The Federalist’s attempt at a defense of Columbus this year.
Some modern-day revisionist historians have taken cheap shots at Columbus, taking a chapter out of Lenin in charging him with being an imperialist. Others blame Columbus for unfair treatment of indigenous people without taking into consideration the mix of his Spanish machismo crew encountering ruthless tribes that included cannibals and the brutal Aztecs. These contributed to the force needed to survive.
To be clear, these supposed “cannibals and the brutal Aztecs” would not have been a problem for Columbus or his “Spanish machismo crew” (???) if they weren’t, you know, trying to conquer them and take their land away. It was a very avoidable scenario, as far as these things go. They had to go 61 days out of their way in order to even come across a single cannibal!
I can’t help but wonder if The Federalist would be quite so enamoured of Columbus and his “Spanish machismo crew” if they were refugees fleeing an authoritarian regime who came to the Bahamas and just lived there like normal without conquering or enslaving anyone.
They’re not even really trying for the “But what about the Italian-Americans? Why can’t they have a day to celebrate their heritage!” this year — perhaps because so many of us have come forward to say we think Columbus Day is gross and that we support Indigenous People’s Day.
Besides, Columbus wasn’t even Italian, because Italy didn’t exist then. Dude was Genoan and probably didn’t think too highly of the kind of Italians who eventually diaspora-ed over here from the south.
I still don’t see why we Italian-Americans can’t come up with a nice day upon which to exploit our ethnic heritage for fun and profit (and parades, because old Italian people love parades). If we want to keep with the theme of finding shit, St. Anthony's Day is on June 13 and that’s already celebrated in a lot of major cities. (True story, I actually lost my purse at the Feast of St. Anthony in Boston and it was mailed back to me from Florida.) There's also St. Joseph’s Day, the day when you get to eat lots of zeppole. That's a pretty good time. I’m an atheist, but you don’t have to be Catholic to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
Personally, I have always maintained that July 13 would be a good day to celebrate, as it was the wedding anniversary of Louis Prima and Keely Smith (who was Cherokee), which — in my opinion — would be celebrating a far more joyous and productive collaboration between Italian-Americans and Indigenous People than Columbus Day.