Every year in the run up to Columbus day, the debate surrounding the controversial historical figure, whether we should “honor” him, and what we should call the “Columbus Day” parade heats up, with Italian Americans lining up on one side pointing out that he symbolizes the spirit of discovery—not to mention their own cultural heritage–and the other wanting nothing less than to reinscribe him in history as a criminal who committed genocide.
Usually, a flurry (sometimes an avalanche) of articles appears and both sides get to vent their anger. This year there seems to be a curious lack of such articles. The Columbus culture war seems to have died down. Not because either side has won, but maybe because it’s either a standoff, an undeclared truce or we’ve reached a compromise.
By now there seems to be a tacit understanding—even among his supporters– that Columbus was not the hero who discovered the so-called new world that had already been populated for thousands of years, and that terrible things were done in the name of country, religion and gold. Not to mention for glory. Also, that since the winner gets to write history, what we know about the” discoverers” and “conquistadors” is anything but a factual or unbiased view. For the cancel culture warriors, they’ve come to realize the depth and strength of the Columbus supporters who have put up quite a fight to keep the status quo.
Both sides seem to have understood that this isn’t a sum zero game. Both have probably realized that either they’ve gained as much concession as they’re going to get, or that they should be happy to keep what they still have in the era of grievance politics and cancel culture.
The Columbus Day parade will take place on Monday, October 10 and the Columbus Citizens Foundation announced in May that Tom Golisano, founder of Paychex and noted philanthropist, will serve as the 2022 Grand Marshal as they march on New York City’s Fifth Avenue.
In 2021, President Biden issued a proclamation declaring the day that coincides with Columbus Day as a day to honor Native Americans, their resilience and their contributions to American society in the face of the cruelties visited on them throughout history–which we all understand to mean since Columbus landed. According to some, “The move shifts focus from Columbus Day, the federal holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus to Indigenous Peoples’ Day”.
Could the scarcity of this year’s usual screeds signal that a suitable compromise has been found? At least for most? To be sure, not everyone has laid down their arms. New York Democrats are still calling for the complete erasure of Columbus Day–a move that The New York Post called a “woke push”. Or is this lull only a truce in the venomous culture wars that have been escalating relentlessly in America and Columbus is still fated to go down?
While we await an answer to this question, groups, institutions, and partners from across the United States and Italy will take part in this year’s celebration—as they have since Generoso Pope led a group of Italian Americans from East Harlem to Columbus Circle in 1929. The parade was formalized as an official celebration of Columbus and Italian heritage in 1944, and this year’s event marks its 78th. Mr. Golisano went straight to the heart of the matter: “My Italian heritage is so important to me, and it’s one of the many reasons why I am excited to be a part of this major celebration of all things Italian.” At least for now, it’s still called the Columbus Day Parade.
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