Columbian exposition


Not so long ago, Italian-Americans were actually seen as a disadvantaged group that faced real discrimination.

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-five years ago, even progressives believed that.

Today, not so much.

Never again will an American President dare to describe Columbus as “a bold and adventurous Italian.” Nor will you hear a President of the United States speak of the New World in such glowing terms as President Roosevelt once used.

In less than a century, Italian-Americans have been reclassified from oppressed to oppressors. They’ve gone from an underprivileged ethnic group that President Roosevelt thought could use a boost to brutal colonizers personified by Christopher Columbus.
It’s not just Italians, of course. Any American of European descent is equally guilty of the Original Sin of living on land stolen from Indigenous Peoples.

Today, school children are taught that the United States was founded on genocide and that we are all colonizers and invaders.

Academically, Columbus is a persona non grata.

Think that’s an exaggeration?

Columbus Day has already been scrubbed from Galvin Middle School. In her latest email blast to Galvin families, Principal Megan Webb lists “October Events,” including:

    Indigenous People’s Day: NO SCHOOL: Monday, October 10

Can you say, “Goodbye Columbus?”

The Wakefield Public Schools calendar is slightly more circumspect, listing Oct. 10 as “Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples Day.” But that’s just a placeholder. In due course, Columbus will go the way of the Wakefield Warrior.

For the grievous sin of using a drawing of a Native American warrior as a sports logo, the Wakefield School Department decreed that our penance must include the creation of a new “Indigenous Curriculum” across all grades and subject areas to correct the “whitewashed” American history allegedly taught in the schools.

But the existence of this “whitewashed” version of American history is itself a myth. I attended Wakefield Public Schools in the 1960s and I recall learning back then that we stole the Indians’ land. I didn’t come up with that myself. I was taught it.

Anyone who’s paying attention knows that public schools haven’t taught a pro-American version of U.S. history in a very long time.

People can play pretend all they want, but on Monday, I’ll be celebrating the official federal holiday known as “Columbus Day.”

If honoring this “bold and adventurous Italian” was good enough for President Roosevelt, it’s good enough for me.

[This column originally appeared in the October 6, 2022 Wakefield Daily Item.]

7 Responses to “Columbian exposition”

  1. 1 John Breithaupt

    I have a copy of the 1942 edition of ‘’The Growth of the American Republic’’ by Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Comager — one of the finest textbooks of American history ever written. It celebrates America as a new home for the world’s oppressed peoples, a place where they could enjoy freedom and opportunity. Nothing woke about it at all. This was, after all, the country engaged in a two-frontbwar against fascism.

    But Comager and Morison did not whitewash what Columbus did to the inhabitants of Hispaniola, where he first made landfall. He treated them as raw materials, to be used and exploited for profit.

    This textbook has always been considered a classic; it gave generations of American students a good grounding in the history of their country.

    It is written on the assumption that it is possible to love one’s country warts and all. In fact, that’s the only way to love one’s country; otherwise, you are loving only an idealized substitute for one’s country.

    As we thinking about the history of our country, it is natural and even desirable that we rethink our ideas of some of its leading figures. I used to admire Woodrow Wilson for his eloquence and idealism. Turns out he was a racist — a big bad ugly one. I wince but I have to accept the verdict of history. Same for Andrew Jackson, whose treatment of the tribes of southeastern indians was genocidal. Is it woke revisionism to judge Jackson that way? It’s how John Quincy Adams judged him.

    In the case of Christopher Columbus, we might have let this sleeping historical dog lie. There would have been no great harm in doing that. But we didn’t do that. The ugly truth came out. And now that it’s out, there’s nothing we can do about it. If we try to honor a tarnished figure with a holiday, all we get is a tarnished holiday. We’ve lost our historical innocence and won’t ever get it back.

  2. 2 John Michael Terravecchia

    Mark, another excellent article. Politics invades all parts of American life today, probably always has. FDR did the correct thing in 1937 acknowledging the contributions of Columbus and all Italian immigrants as well as all other Europeans. He most probably recognized there were votes to be had. In any event, he did the correct thing. I agree entirely with all of the points you made throughout. My grandparent, who immigrated just after 1900 did experience discrimination and to a lesser extent so did their children. As a grandson, a second-generation Italian American, I always knew, probably by osmosis, what they experienced. I will always be grateful they never would allow what others said, did or felt about me to get in the way of anything I desired to accomplish in my life and to be proud of my heritage.

  3. 3 Nancy Trimper

    And so many of us in Wakefield are of Italian descent. I saw a nice display in the library about the Italians ,so someone still likes us!

  4. 4 Nancy Trimper

    Why must you moderate my comment? I did not say anything offensive.

  5. 5 Anthony Antetomaso

    Every evil Columbus is accused of visiting on the innocent people of the New World was already here when he arrived except for some nasty diseases that were going to come here sooner or later.
    I can’t see a 2022 world where a PRISTINE Western Hemisphere still existed.

    • 6 Mark Sardella

      Europeans had at least moved beyond human sacrifice by the time Columbus sailed, unlike the native tribes of the New World, who also didn’t need Europeans to teach them how to practice slavery and torture.

      • 7 Jessefell123!

        Comager and Morison write: ‘’ In 1512 Hispaniola was exporting annually to Spain not far short of a million dollars in gold. The enslaved Indians died off under forced labor [in gold mines] and were replaced, first by Indians kidnapped from other islands, who suffered the same fate, and — beginning in 1510 — by Negro slaves, bought from the Portuguese, who procured them in Africa.’’. This is the system that Columbus initiated. If he made any effort to mitigate the brutality of the European treatment of the tribes of the new world, it is not recorded.

        It’s pointless virtue-signaling to beat ourselves up over the destruction of the first inhabitants of the new world. At the same time, we need to look for better heroes than the man who initiated that destruction.

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