Please drop the calendar and just walk away! Italians have so little to be proud of as it is. They didn’t even manage to invent pasta or pizza which would’ve made enduring their culture almost bearable. Their entire legacy consists of a film director who was likely on LSD, a reality show in New Jersey, crime families, and a marvelous capacity for entire armies to surrender simultaneously.
But before we truly get into “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” and before you start thinking I just took a right turn to the dark side, please let me issue several stipulations first.
We’ll start with, as Chris Rock so blithely put it is, “Nobody got it worse than the American Indian.” To prove his hypothesis, he adds, “Shit! I have seen a polar bear riding a fuckin’ tricycle in my lifetime, but I have never seen an American Indian family just chilling out at Red Lobster.”
Then, I will continue to challenge my anti-immigration conservative friends to display the depth of their righteous border wall indignation by immediately turning their property over to the Pottawatomie nation. Because unless your name sounds something like “Running Deer,” by any number of treaties, every last Illinoisan is an illegal immigrant.
So as you might imagine, I’m wholly behind “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” even though the thought originated in that strange land know as Seattle where the people are so polite they actually cause traffic accidents.
Lest any of you think we’ve come a long way on the Native American issue, we still have an NFL team named the “Redskins.” But that doesn’t mean, in order to acknowledge those native to this continent, we have to summarily dispense with Columbus Day either.
In the pantheon of annual holidays, Columbus Day is about as minor as it gets. Unless you’re a student, banker or government worker, you probably don’t even note its passage. Only that Casimir Pulaski celebration falls lower on the day off scale because Chicago threw that one in just to placate the Poles who can be a really rowdy bunch. Have you ever seen them dance to Polka music?
Yes! Yes! Yes! I understand that when Chris and his cohorts descended upon these balmy shores it did not bode well for Native Americans. In fact, it was probably the single most devastating event in their long and storied history.
But to put today’s template on something that happened over 500 years ago is patently unfair.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Europeans had no idea what caused the spread of disease and that inevitable intercontinental meeting would’ve been disastrous regardless of the time or place. Native Americans had no resistance to smallpox which wiped them out at a faster pace than any gun totin’ white folks could ever hope to achieve on their best day.
And speaking of gun toting white folks, for better or worse, colonization was the norm back then and to take our ancestors to task for engaging in that eminently acceptable behavior is a lot like asking a toddler to explain War and Peace. He knows it’s a book, but that’s about as far as you’re gonna get.
That said, considering our current circumstances, it is truly scary to think that Western Civilization actually has evolved since then.
So when I think about the day that carries our “discoverer’s” name, my thoughts turn to the spirit of exploration, persistence, and the willingness to take a risk based on a reasonable hunch. As it turned out, the world was not flat.
Of course, it didn’t turn out too well for those who were already here, which is why I like the idea of celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day too, just not at the expense of most famous Italian. It certainly wouldn’t hurt any of us to remember Native American contributions, there’s still room for Caucasian cultural improvement, and unintended consequences can have far more far reaching implications than the best of our misguided intentions.
So let’s leave Columbus Day alone if for no other reason than it will keep the Italians from complaining any more than they already do. Let’s honor the best intentions of our ancestors while duly noting that we’ve made some mistakes along the way.