Weekend Warrior

11Oct19

As we head into the long Indigenous Peoples Day weekend, let us take a moment from our apple picking, leaf-peeping and farmers market excursions to reflect upon the true meaning of the holiday: to show how much more virtuous and woke we are than those who still call it Columbus Day.

Some American cities have symbolically renamed the federal Columbus Day holiday as “Indigenous Peoples Day,” in honor of those that used to be called “Indians,” before it was changed to the more PC “Native Americans.” But the latter still had “American” in it, and obviously that’s unacceptable. So, now it’s “Indigenous Peoples” or “First Peoples” — at least until, in our species’ ever-expanding capacity for self-loathing, we decide that “people” is also a term of hate.

Berkeley, California was one of the first cities to enact Indigenous Peoples Day “to not only call attention to the demise of Native American people and their culture but to also protest the historical conquest of North America by Europeans.”

I get the first part. But if I were to protest the fall of the Roman Empire at the hands of the Visigoths and the Huns, I don’t think it would do much to change history or affect the lives of present-day Italians.

Speaking of Italians, at one time not so long ago, Italian-Americans were actually a disadvantaged group. For that reason, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the first federal observance of Columbus Day in 1937 to recognize the contributions of Italian-Americans and to assure them of their rightful place in American history.

“We are celebrating today the exploit of a bold and adventurous Italian,” FDR said, “who with the aid of Spain opened up a new world where freedom, tolerance and respect for human dignity provided a refuge for the oppressed of the Old World.”

Eighty-two years ago, even progressives believed those words.

Now, Christopher Columbus is seen as a genocidal monster and Italian-Americans are just another breed of European interloper, as guilty (if not more so, thanks to Columbus) as their former Yankee overlords.

I used to think that Wakefield was immune to such nonsense. But in recent years, we’ve become Wokefield, banning plastic bags and renaming our Board of Selectmen to get rid of the word “men.”

At a meeting a few weeks ago, a member of our now renamed Town Council reported the results of a little survey of Wakefield residents’ concerns that he had helped conduct at the Farmers Market, of all places. Among the issues mentioned were getting rid of the Wakefield Memorial High School Warrior logo and changing the name of Festival Italia to something more “inclusive.”

I wonder if conducting the survey from a table alongside the Wakefield Human Rights Commission in any way affected the responses. Our esteemed Human Rights Commission has recently been discussing Indigenous Peoples Day. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

In any case, the Farmers Market isn’t the first place I’d go if I wanted to take the temperature of the average Wakefield resident. A survey conducted at Landrigan Field during a Friday night football game would certainly be more “inclusive” and yield a much different and far more representative outcome.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing the results of that survey very soon.

Until then, happy Columbus Day!

[This column originally appeared in the October 10, 2019 Wakefield Daily Item.]



2 Responses to “Weekend Warrior”

  1. 1 Anthony Antetomaso

    Great column, Mark. Spot on, on everything. As for changing the name of Festival Italia to something more “inclusive”, fine by me. There is almost nothing “Italian” about the goings-on except shops moving there sales operations out onto the sidewalks. Nothing wrong with that, mind you – I love business – but I resent to notion that nothing is more Italian than doing business. More ethnic food, some bands playing Italian-themed music, busty girls in tight tops and flouncy skirts, a “Most Italian” contest….Have the Sons of Italy send an advisor over. You know – REAL Italian stuff!
    Be well!

  2. 2 Marilee Cunningham

    Hi Mark, Yes, it’s hard to keep up with the changing dynamic of what names to call things and people. Having said that, I would say awareness of others lives and life experiences and at least an effort to be empathetic with those others, as we would wish for ourselves, is better than the opposite. There are examples from the 1960s that not even our beloved Wakefield was spared from incidents that were discriminatory against others. So, it might take the pendulum swinging widely in another direction until it comes to rest in a place where everyone feels comfortable as equal members of the community and the world. We can’t walk in another’s shoes but we can try understand experiences we may never have but that cause pain to others.


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