My pal, Marco Randazza, is pretty keen on Columbus Day. He’s of Italian heritage, and, well, it’s not as if Italians get a lot of holidays for one of their tribe. Columbus Day is pretty much it.
This is COLUMBUS DAY.
I’d like to invite anyone whose name ends with a vowel (Persians excluded) to raise their hands, extend their middle fingers, and flip off the Native Americans, the hippies, and everyone else in the International Association of Crybabies who has a piss and a moan about Christopher Columbus.
This is not “indigenous people’s day,” it is not “la dia de la raza” and it isn’t frigging “wear a beret, listen to Joni Mitchell, and wear patchoulli day.”
It’s unclear how Joni Mitchell is to blame, but musical choices are hard to explain. That said, John Oliver asked, “how is this still a thing?” There is a laundry list of complaints about Columbus, ranging from his “discovering” a place where people already lived, to his personal traits:
Even his most ardent admirers acknowledge that Columbus was self-centered, ruthless, avaricious, and a racist.”
The cite offered about his “most ardent admirers,” U.S History.com, fails to back this up at all, but then, John Oliver agrees, and given his status as a United States historian, who could argue the point?
Winston Churchill said “history is written by the victors.” And as Marco delicately points out, the “indigenous peoples” didn’t win.
To the Native Americans who have a beef with Columbus Day — suck it. There was a war. You lost. Sorry. Trust me, the Italians know how you feel. We suck at wars. We used to be awesome at them. That ended some time around 400 A.D. Italians are the Chicago Cubs of warfare. (But you’re the Padres)
There are at least two, if not more, perspectives of history, and there is nothing wrong with remembering that the victors’ perspective, where they were the good guys, doing right, doing what they had to do, isn’t the only one. But there has been a paradigm shift, aligned with the cultural shift of the same view, that would rewrite history in accordance with the losers. As if that view is more honest, more worthy. Victimhood has never seen brighter days.
But even the efforts of the Outrage Factory, promoting the interests of victimhood, have been met with mixed success because of an internecine dispute of whose victimhood is the most outrageous. They’ve even come up with a nifty social media word about it, “whataboutery,” which has become an explanation in itself, shallowness notwithstanding. It’s reminiscent of the simplistic cries over “victim blaming,” a per se rule for the perpetually outraged that ignores the reality that sometimes victims share blame for their complicity in creating their own problems. See “comparative negligence.”
While it’s true that people for whom their conception of social justice informs all can be concerned about multiple outrages at the same time, they have a hierarchy of outrages. It’s unclear whether they take a vote or just see which outrage gets the most Facebook likes, but they huddle up in support of their favored outrage and, unsurprisingly, belittle those lesser outrages that aren’t at the top of their list.
Some believe that the most outrageous outrage is sex discrimination. Others, sexual preference. Some go with rape at home, while others go with the treatment of Palestinians in the middle east. The list seems inexhaustible, but it presents a problem: you can’t go to the mats for everyone. There isn’t enough time. There aren’t enough tears. And, to paraphrase the words of a cisnormative white patriarchal racist, they regret that they have only one life to give to their cause.
What they find unacceptable, each shift at the Outrage Factory, is that other shifts aren’t dedicating every fiber of their being to their favored outrage. How could they be so wrong, so clueless, so evil? How could any reasonable person not feel as they do? As is their favorite complaint, it’s so exhausting being right and trying to make the wrong warriors understand they are wrong.
There is a phenomenon that occurs during meetings of grade school committees on special education, where a parent with a child who suffers from disabilities meets with the school-provided parent advocate and explains his child’s issues.
The parent-advocate, often someone who has learned to navigate the system because of personal experience, then trivializes the suffering of the parent in comparison with his child. “What? Your kid has ADHD? Well, boo-fucking-hoo. My kid is blind, has no legs and has been in a vegetative state since he was three. Stop yer whining.”
While the parent-advocate’s child may suffer from far more serious afflictions, it’s not the litmus test by which the parent’s concerns are tested. Each parent gets to focus exclusively on his child’s needs. “So sorry that your kid suffers terribly, but this isn’t about yours. This is about mine.” The parent is allowed, even if his child isn’t one of the top ten most disabled students ever.
Each of us gets to pick and choose the issues for which we’re willing to go to the mattresses. And some pick none of the above, which is also their right. There is no requirement that they have to justify their choices, and, indeed, there is no reasoning with those whose rationalization is based solely on their feelz. Is breast cancer worse than colon cancer? Is the crucifixion of a teenager in Saudi Arabia more horrible than the murders of unarmed black men in America?
At the Outrage Factory, there are actual answers to these rhetorical questions, because those for whom one issue trumps another are certain they have made the right choice, the only choice, and anyone who doesn’t agree is wrong. There is no voice more strident than the self-righteous, for they own justice.
Congress made the second Monday in October, today, Columbus Day. Whether he was a hero or a villain doesn’t change the fact that Marco, and those who share his ancestry, are entitled to this day to celebrate their Italian heritage. It doesn’t cost those who obsess over Columbus’ victims anything to let Marco have his day. And, Eurocentric as it may be, he did play a big role in why we’re not walking around in loin cloths and buying Starbucks with wampum.
The workers at the Outrage factory can go back to their screaming over which outrage is the worst tomorrow. Today, the factory is closed for a national holiday.