Monday, March 2, 2020

Friends to Columbus, but not to truth

     Alds. Nick Sposato and Anthony Napolitano belong to a people notorious for their theatrical emotion and looseness with fact. I’m referring, of course, to the Chicago City Council. Those qualities vibrated off the page in the Sun-Times Friday, in Fran Spielman and Nader Issa’s story detailing aldermanic outrage at the Chicago Public School’s decision to drop Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous People’s Day.
     ”He found America,” Sposato said of Columbus, declaring “war” on the CPS over its disinclination to honor the Italian explorer.
     ”It’s absolutely ridiculous,” added Napolitano, inflating elimination of the holiday into a general slur “that Italian Americans haven’t contributed to the United States.”
     Let me begin by saying I have sympathy for the underlying issue here: the importance of the Italian-American community, their invaluable culture and vital contribution to Chicago. I could not have spent as many hours as I did sitting at Gene & Georgetti, across a table from that charming booster of all things Italian, the late Dominic DiFrisco, hearing him expound on this very issue, and not be sympathetic.
     A huge deal, Columbus was. In the 19th century. From Columbus Ohio, founded in 1812, to the 1893 Columbian Fair.
     But guess what? We’re in the 21st century now, and the political climate has shifted. Columbus Day, while a chance for some Italians to display their pride — something which, judging from these two alderman, needs no special holiday to rear snorting and pawing its hooves in the air — has turned into open season on Italy’s famous son.
     Were I to create a holiday specifically designed to generate ill will toward Italians, I would call it “Columbus Day” and encourage students to work themselves into a lather revisiting his atrocities, which are real no matter what Nick Sposato imagines.
     ”You think he could do the things they’re claiming he did with 90 people?” he said.
     Columbus sure thought so. The crimes lain at his feet are not some slur cooked up the anti-Italian legions infecting this pair of aldermanic brains. Read Columbus’ journal:
     ”They do not bear arms, and do not know them,” Columbus wrote of those he encountered. “They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane ... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”
     Sposato returned my call. I read him that entry.

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  1. I've been baffled for years, why we can't get Balbo renamed for Fermi!
    Balbo was a Fascist Mussolini supporter, while Fermi left Italy to protect his wife, who was Jewish, even though Mussolini said he'd protect her.
    Fermi then went on to create the first nuclear reactor, here in Chicago & start the race to build the A-bomb, which ended WWII.

  2. As someone who once regarded himself as an Irish nationalist, even though I was at least 3 generations from Ireland and 8 years old at the time, I hesitate to join in the critique of the overweening pride of Italian Americans in a cultural icon such as Christopher Columbus. It's clear to me that the Irish who gained liberty for a portion of Ireland were often brutal terrorists and that Columbus was a cynical, money grubbing, exploiter of a people he recognized as unable to fight back. I'm certain that Nick Sposato and Anthony Napolitano cannot now admit the least of Columbus's sins. A prime example of how truth suffers in the face of expedience.l



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