The [Monday] Papers
As I began reading Neil Steinberg's column today - it's my duty - I thought I might actually excerpt from it approvingly. His initial thoughts on the complexity of Columbus Day seemed to merit mention. And then he goes off the rails.
"And yet perhaps because I learned the 1970s history catechism, where national unity trumps the complaints of each individual group, I feel for the Italians, who just want to be part of the story and celebrate themselves without having to wipe the blood of the slaughtered off their hands every October."
Huh. I thought the notion of "national unity trumping the complaints of each individual group" was the history catechism of the 1980s, not the 70s. You know, the reaction of Reagan's America against the encroaching enlightenment of the previous two decades.
But that's the least of it.
"[T]here's a card widely posted on Facebook," Steinberg notes. "'Let's celebrate Columbus Day by walking into someone's house and telling them we live there now.' A fair synopsis of what happened, minus the genocide."
Steinberg does not like the card (which I, too, shared on Facebook).
"What bothers me most about the 'Let's celebrate . . . ' card is the casual declaration of free-floating guilt that we liberals seem to have mastered. What are you saying? You're sorry the nation was founded?"
First, I resist the notion that the sentiment expressed in the card is merely a liberal one - or that it is motivated by guilt.
More importantly, how hard is it to see that maybe we should all be sorry the nation was founded the way it was? Or that perhaps a better America could have been founded? Or that Native, um, Americans could have been left alone, or a more palatable cooperative agreement - minus the genocide - could have been arranged?
If America was indeed founded by brute force driven by hatred of supposed subhumans getting in the way of our ancestors' destiny, well, I don't see how that's a bad thing to rue.
"The Aztecs were the most violent state in recorded human history, so it isn't as if, had Columbus never arrived, the American Eden would remain to this day."
I didn't know Aztecs were in America or that Eden existed when America was Indians-only. No one is saying any such thing.
"To post that card is hypocrisy. Europe's still there. Go back if you feel so guilty about living here. I sure don't."
I don't see the hypocrisy. America, love it or leave it?
The card simply asks just what it is we are celebrating when we celebrate Columbus Day. Apparently such an inquiry is off-limits.
"My ancestors never killed an Indian or owned a slave. They were selling rags in Poland when all this was going on, and America was the golden door a handful fled through before the most cultured and sophisticated society in Europe put the rest in ovens. That still doesn't prompt me to show up at German Unity Day and wave pictures of Auschwitz. The past is a lousy place to live."
Um . . . what? I don't even know how to parse this incomprehensible passage, but I'll try:
So you should only feel guilty about Columbus Day if one of your ancestors killed an Indian? Wouldn't that make it wrong to celebrate the white settlers and those who followed and, um, built a golden door for people like the Steinbergs?
And isn't the genocidal slaughter of American Indians similar in some way to the ovens of Auschwitz?
And if you won't wave flags on German Unity Day, why would you on Columbus Day?
Perhaps somebody wrote the middle of Steinberg's column while he was in the bathroom because then he writes:
"We live in a time when heroes are ritualistically tarnished and, frankly, everybody is better off with the more accurate, though less flattering, narrative than with the pretty story. It's easier for me to grasp the current inability of the government to confront our problems when I consider that it was formed on a lie - 'All men are created equal' - that skirted the issue of slavery, kicking it down the pike to explode 75 years later. Ignoring our biggest problems is an American tradition since 1776."
Exactly! You like the card after all!
"Columbus Day is an Italian pride holiday," Dominic Di Frisco, president emeritus of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, tells Steinberg, who approves even though he learned the 1970s history catechism.
In fact, to America the holiday has nothing to do with Italians. It's about the discovery of America. By a white man.
To DiFrisco, though, it's also about something else:
"Here's a man who planted the flag of Christianity on the shores of the new world and teachers are systemically taking the image of Columbus we all knew and they've turned him into a villain."
To which Steinberg ends his column: "Speaking of the flag of Christianity . . . but space grows short. Happy Columbus Day."
I don't know what that means, but planting the flag of Christianity on our shores was not such a happy thing either; at least to non-Christians.
"Journalist and media critic Norman Solomon reflects in Columbus Day: A Clash of Myth and History that many people choose to hold on to the myths surrounding Columbus whereas historians who deal with the evidence are frequently depicted as 'politically correct' revisionists," Wikipedia's article on Columbus Day notes.
"He quotes from the logbook Columbus's initial description of the Indians: 'They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance . . . They would make fine servants . . . With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want' . . .
"In 1495, during the Second Voyage, Indians were transported to Spain as slaves, many dying en route. 'Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity,' Columbus later wrote, 'go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.'
"Solomon states that the most important contemporary documentary evidence is the multi-volume History of the Indies by the Catholic priest Bartolome de las Casas who observed the region where Columbus was governor.
"In contrast to 'the myth' Solomon quotes Las Casas who describes Spaniards driven by 'insatiable greed' - 'killing, terrorizing, afflicting, and torturing the native peoples' with 'the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty' and how systematic violence was aimed at preventing 'Indians from daring to think of themselves as human beings.' The Spaniards 'thought nothing of knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades,' wrote Las Casas. 'My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I write.'"
Happy Columbus Day, Neil.
Monday Night Beachwood
To my knowledge, there is no Hank Williams Jr. on the Beachwood jukebox and tonight there will be no Hank Williams Jr. on Monday Night Football, though he has written a new song "lashing out at the media."
My guess? It's owned by the Jews!
Stop in to watch the game tonight and further this fascinating discussion. I'll be behind the bar serving up cold Old Styles and, for those with a taste for the finer things in life (and the wallet to afford them), fine selections from the Bell's brewery of Kalamazoo.
We open at 5 so get your seat early.
We'll also feature our very own Jim "Coach" Coffman doing post-game commentary while drinking his customary Two-Hearted Ale.
Here's the coach in today's SportsMonday column:
"Tonight is just about the whole season for the Bears."
So there you go.
But seriously . . .
The One Thing John Wayne Gacy Would Never Admit
The Weekend In Chicago Rock
Hawaiian Hula Days 2011
Gym, Tan, Butt-Head
The Beachwood Tip Line: Occupado.
Posted on October 10, 2011
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