Goodbye Columbus?

In our era of identity politics -- largely brought to us by the Left -- white ethnic groups have not received a lot of attention. This is apparently the case with Italian-Americans, who are about to be denied a symbol and historic figure who has been important to them: Christopher Columbus.

For decades Columbus Day has been celebrated without opposition, and Americans believed that just as the Irish celebrate their heritage on St. Patrick’s Day, Italian-Americans had a right to celebrate theirs on Columbus Day. Yes, Columbus arrived in the “New World” by anchoring in the Bahamas, and never made it to North American soil. Yet, as Lakshmi Gandhi points out, it was not until 1828 when Washington Irving wrote a book about Columbus’ voyages that the glorification and mythmaking about Columbus’ role started. Irving’s book began with the widespread move to America by Italian immigrants in his own day. Italian immigration then skyrocketed between 1880 and World War I.

Italian immigrants, like others to come after them, found that they were hardly welcome in America. They were viewed as foreign and strange, and worst of all, they were Catholics.

But after a mass lynching of eleven Italians in New Orleans in 1891, Pres. Benjamin Harrison in 1892 called for a national observance of Columbus Day in honor of the 400th anniversary of his arrival in the New World. Harrison linked the celebration to American patriotism. Italian-Americans, however, because they were discriminated against, saw this celebration of Columbus as one way to be accepted by all Americans. It took a long time -- until 1934 during FDR’s administration -- to proclaim Columbus Day a federal holiday. Yet some states and cities still do not celebrate it.

Why are we not surprised to learn that Berkeley, California, often called “The People’s Republic of Berkeley,” proclaimed in 1992 that the second Monday in October would be “Indigenous Peoples Day,” thereby assuring their reputation as the place at the forefront of PC activism?

The anti-Columbus actions today are the result of the two or three generations who learned their American history from the late Howard Zinn.

As I argued here and here, Zinn believed, as he wrote, that all of America history comes down to “genocide: brutally and purposefully waged by our rulers in the name of progress.” He claimed that these truths were buried "in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth." Zinn’s entire oeuvre is based on the fallacy that all of America’s leaders waged war against those who really made the American nation: the poor, the Native Americans, the African-Americans, the working-class, women, and all other oppressed people suffering from the power of the capitalist ruling class.