Monday, October 12, 2009

Annual Spanish Invasion Day

When I was growing up, Columbus Day was a semi-historical celebration to which most Americans paid little attention. Though he sailed under the Spanish Flag, he was Genoese, and that did produce a day for the Italian-Americans to celebrate much like St. Patrick's Day for the Irish-Americans. In San Francisco, with its large Italian immigrant population, it was always a big day for celebration.

Since I have neither Spanish nor Italian ancestors, I had simply been taught the traditional couplet "In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." Of course we quickly developed our own obscene versions of the next line, but that's another story entirely. It wasn't until late in elementary school that I got to exercise my first ethnic indignation when I found out that Columbus wasn't even the first European to discover America. In fact some of my ancient ancestors had sailed in their long boats to the North American mainland long before Columbus ever set foot on that worthless island south of Florida.

I immediately demanded to know why we don't celebrate Leif Erikson day. It didn't last long. First, my ancestors were mostly busy running around in animal skins in the Teutoburg Forest and were probably as delighted at the arrival of the Norsemen as were the Native Americans. And apparently, the distinction has always been made that the Spanish permanently settled America, while my "Germanic" forebears split back to Greenland, Iceland, and Scandinavia. This year's Leif Erikson day celebrations were overshadowed by the announcement that the president had received the Nobel Peace prize.

So--big holiday for Italian-Americans, official holiday for the rest of us. That is right up until political correctness and ethnic grievances became the norm, starting in the late Sixties. Contrary to current received wisdom, those of us who attended school prior to the great leftist awakening actually were taught about Columbus's great accomplishment along with his horrible treatment of the natives and the forced conversions supervised by The Inquisition. Those of us who are Protestants (particularly those of us who are Lutherans with historical perspective) related to their plight, especially when it came to The Inquisition. Our Jewish friends weren't too thrilled with the forced conversion idea, either. But we felt none of the vitriol to come concerning the man who eventually became described by the leftist establishment as Satan's right hand man and the great destroyer of indigenous cultures.

Interestingly, with all the anti-Columbus, anti-European rhetoric of the leftists, the original purpose of enhancing Columbus day was formed in the latter half of the 19th century. Catholic immigrants were a particular target of nativist organizations including the Populists and the Ku Klux Klan. In order to fight discrimination, Catholics developed social organizations to fight prejudice. One of the most famous is the Knights of Columbus, which was instrumental in establishing Columbus Day first as a series of state holidays, and finally in 1934 a federal holiday. Leftists who go into high dudgeon at the mere mention of Columbus's name support unrestricted immigration. Yet they don't see that the original Columbus Day celebrations were all about immigration and non-discrimination (admittedly ignoring the slavery and oppression thing for the most part).

Another interesting sidelight is the vociferousness of the Columbus attacks which come from the Mexican-American leftist organizations. Considering that the vast majority of Mexicans are Spanish-Indian mix, I'm trying to figure out exactly whom they're protesting. Do they march in Columbus Day parades, but only half of the route? Do they object to Columbus attempting to enslave or exterminate half of each of them? Do they punch themselves in the nose? The North American Native American groups are always full-throated about how they were oppressed by Columbus. Of course, the only North American Indian group which had much contact with the Spanish were the Seminoles, with whom the Spanish generally got along very well. Perhaps they don't understand that "Anglo" refers to a specific ethnic group which is not Spanish.

Through the Seventies and Eighties, as radicalism became mainstream and entrenched in the schools of higher "education," Columbus went from hero to villain, and his holiday was continuously demoted to minor status. By 1992, the National Council of Churches, the largest ecumenical religious body in the United States, called on Christians to refuse to celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus's arrival in the New World. Columbus shouldn't feel too bad, though. Christ was lowered to a level of secondary importance in the same Council years earlier.

Some sense has started to return by the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century. The left has bigger fish to hate. With their blood-lust fed by the riots of the Sixties through the Nineties, it suddenly became fashionable to mention the bloodthirstiness and warlike habits of the native American populations. Once Columbus ceased to be the oppressor of a horde of loving shepherds and sweet agrarians, his evil didn't seem so evil anymore. Michael Berliner of the Ayn Rand Institute was able to make a statement about Columbus and his successors that didn't even get him put on a leftist hit list: "The European conquest brought reason, science, self-reliance, individualism, ambition, and productive achievement to a people who were based in primitivism, mysticism, and collectivism and to a land that was sparsely inhabited, unused and underveloped." The best criticism the radicals could come up with was "the statement was Eurocentric.

Having gotten all that out of the way--HAPPY COLUMBUS DAY.

20 comments:

StanH said...

That was funny Lawhawk! The Mexicans have the same dilemma that our Barry has being bi-racial. I recommend that they handle it in the same manner as Barry, throw their Spanish side under the bus, accentuate the Indian side and, wa-la …instant victim. Happy Columbus Day!

PS: What happened to the 49er’s yesterday?

Writer X said...

Love your post today, LawHawk. I linked to it on my blog. This was a holiday where we had plenty of celebration in my hometown in Chicago--lots of Italians in my neighborhood, including my dad. It was a big deal, although everybody celebrated it. And you wonder what would have happened had Columbus not reached the Americas. That's something to think about!

AndrewPrice said...

Nice post Lawhawk. I find the attacks on Columbus to be so incredibly short sighted. But then, they're not really aimed at Columbus himself are they? They're an attack on America using Columbus simply as the symbol for all that came later.

LL said...

This holiday only serves to underscore my hatred for all you PALE FACES who came to a land where the peace loving red men lived with each other in a state of innocence and peace - of universal brotherhood.

Of course that's complete BS, but it's the sort of thing I heard as a kid in some quarters. (Remember the American Indian Movement - of course if it was alive and well today we'd call it the pro-casino native american movement or something like that)

Good post, LawHawk.

AndrewPrice said...

LL, You're right, it is garbage. It's all about identity politics. If you aren't a victim, then you're an oppressor -- so everyone wants to be the victim. Thus, you whitewash your own past, you demonize the other guy, and you attack everything the other guys holds dear.

LawHawkSF said...

StanH: If this brouhaha weren't so pathetic, it would be funny. At this rate the only hero left will be Che Guevara. Then they'll dump on him because he's only half native American.

We were just kidding yesterday. Those weren't the real 49ers. We sent in substitutes just to see if the Falcons would notice. Amazingly, that still leaves San Francisco well atop the NFC West.

LawHawkSF said...

WriterX: Thanks for the link. Columbus Day will not go unnoticed in North Beach, our big Italian ethnic area. Best Italian food west of Chicago (and maybe better than that). After a few years of the politically-correct venom, the locals got smart. The Italian American clubs stopped promoting the parade as the Columbus Day parade and called it the Italian-American Heritage parade. It's gone on pretty much unmolested under that name ever since. The funny part is the main thoroughfare where the parade takes place is, you guessed it, Columbus Avenue.

JG said...

Thanks for the history lesson, Lawhawk! Here in OK we have both the Hispanic political groups and the Native American Indian groups. Yes, NAI. My brother (high school) was told that is the NEW PC way to refer to our predecessors (since, being Oklahoman, we have strains of Cherokee in us). As far as I'm concerned, for the reasons listed, Columbus "discovered" America. After all, there were already people here even when the Vikings came, but it's the contribution of the European world that makes his touch-down significant.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: You're absolutely right. If Leif Erikson had been able to stick around, they'd be all over him, too. It's the complete lack of perspective that bugs me. If Congress suddenly decided to have a Chief Crazy Horse holiday, I'd not only understand, I'd think it was cool. But I wouldn't make the mistake of thinking that he was the Mother Teresa of Native Americans. In no time at all, there would be protests from the South West because the Sioux plains Indians oppressed the more peaceful natives. There are no winners in the victimology wars.

LawHawkSF said...

LL: Do I remember the American Indian Movement? Oh, boy, do I remember it. I had friends all over the Bay with pleasure craft (here that's not as big a luxury as you might think--many live on them). After a party (I was a bit wilder in those days), and a few too many drinks under my belt, I borrowed one of the small cabin cruisers for a Bay Cruise. After missing the pillars of the Bay Bridge, I managed to get a little too close to Alcatraz, and ran mildly aground. That was 1969, and the Movement was occupying the island. Fortunately, with a last name like Hawk and a particularly creative story fueled by alcohol, I got a few laughs and was pushed off on my merry way. Last time I ever drank and piloted.

LawHawkSF said...

JG: The anti-European element is one of the major parts of political-correctness gone mad. This all happened about the same time Western Civilization was eliminated from university curricula. Giant pyramids and a knowledge of some kind of basic astronomy and mathematics made native cultures equal and perhaps superior to all European cultural and scientific advances. Along with moral superiority (the noble savage), it was inevitable that Columbus would get the ax.

BevfromNYC said...

I'm so confused! I keep forgetting who I (and my ancestors) have oppressed and victimized and who has oppressed and victimized me (and my ancestors). Should we prepare a chart? Maybe we should start the Victim/Oppressor Group of the Week? We can start with Homo Erectus' and Homo Sapiens. You know there was probably some hatin' going on even then...

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, You're right, there are no winners. All identity politics does is to generate hate, anger and division.

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: You must devote your every waking moment to making up for your guilt and finding all the oppressors in your family line. And I can tell you're not prepared to go far enough back. We now now that australopithecus afarensis had a predecessor that they obviously oppressed into extinction. These wrongs must be remedied! Lucy was an exploiter!

Tennessee Jed said...

I always thought celebrating Columbus Day was a good way to celebrate the "discovery" of America, regardless of how accurate the premise. The liberal p.c. police can sour almost anything, can't they, if one let's them. Nice painting, btw.

LawHawkSF said...

Tennessee Jed: That's pretty much what we all thought until political correctness reared its ugly head.

The painting was by Discoro Teofilo de la Puebla. It's a classic. I originally was going to use the Salvador Dali painting, but changed my mind (I'm not sure why).

BevfromNYC said...

Wrong Law -
Lucy was the original victim. Why? Because she was a womyn and as we all know, ALL womyn have been victimized and oppressed since the beginning of time.

Can I have my reparation payment now? I will settle for $1 dollar for every year since 9,000,000,000 BC [or BCE]. Please send in small bills which will henceforth be called Janes because the word "bill" is masculine name and, therefore, misogynist and disparaging to Womyn...

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: LOL! You win. I'll see if I can get a womyns advocacy group to look into your reparations forthwith!

MegaTroll said...

Great history of the holiday! Thanks Lawhawk! You guys do great work here.

LawHawkSF said...

MegaTroll: Thanks very much. We give it our very best.

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