Meaningful political coverage can be rare in this town. Sure you get pictures of candidates with ambulances and fire trucks, several petite interviews that don't go very far, plus the infamous list of perfunctory pop culture preferences. But what does all of that really mean when you are looking for the true essence and character of a City Council candidate? Not very much I am afraid.
But that is where The Tattler comes in. We feel that for people to truly understand where a candidate is coming from, you're going to have to find something of actual importance, and then get it out before the people to see how it plays. And since this blog is not endorsing anyone (we love all the candidates and have no idea of who we're going to vote in April) we get to cover anything we like. We want The Tattler to be your source for the information you need to make the right choice. And if not that, then at least for some cheap entertainment.
Back in October of 2002 then Yale undergraduate John Harabedian, along with a classmate by the name of Matthew D. Houk, penned an essay entitled "Sharing the Story of the Native Americans." Printed in the Yale Daily News (click here), the purpose was to promote something called "Indigenous Peoples' Day." The indigenous people in this case being Native Americans, also known as American Indians. Indigenous meaning that they were here first. Or at least as far as we can tell.
There's also what the authors likely felt was a high moral purpose. That being to undo an historic wrong, one committed by none other than Christopher Columbus, the intrepid Italian explorer credited with the discovery of what was then known as the New World. The punishment to be exacted being the replacement Columbus Day with a new holiday, one in honor of those people already here when he happened upon the place.
Which would be controversial in itself. After all, Columbus Day is a revered holiday for many in this country, and a day off for the rest. But what takes this little trip to a whole new level is just how serious the authors of this piece felt Columbus' supposed crimes really were. Would you believe they place him at an Adolph Hitler level of nefarious historical infamy? Godwin's Law aside, there are 5 Nazi accusations made in just the passages I quote below.
According to Ward Churchill in "A Little Matter of Genocide," by the time of Columbus' departure in 1500, the native population had been reduced from as many as 8 million to about 100,000, and by 1514, with his policies still a part of the institution of government he created, the native population had dropped to a low of 22,000.
Granted, many of the deaths were the result of disease, but does this in any way absolve them from any guilt? It is widely known that many of the deaths during the Holocaust resulted from disease and the terrible working conditions of prisoners were subjected to, but these deaths are still seen as part of the total loss resulting from Nazi policies and are not justified by saying that the Nazis "may have erred in their ways" and "cannot be blamed for inadvertently spreading germs" within the prison population.
And, not all germs were spread "inadvertently" as Clyne would like to believe. It is well known among the educated community that Lord Jeffery Amherst instructed his men to use smallpox-contaminated blankets to "extirpate" the Ottawas. Given these widely known facts, we fail to see how our comparison to the suffering of indigenous peoples in the Americas with the suffering of the Europeans at the hands of the Nazis in anyway "lacks historical integrity and disrespects the victims of Nazi genocide."
Columbus Day, while seen by many as the great beginning of "democracy, liberty, human rights, the belief in a transcendent god, and liberal education" in what was to become known as the United States, is seen by us as the great beginning of the Native American Holocaust. While the experience of the Europeans at the hands of the Nazis embodies the true meaning of the word (to be consumed by flame), our holocaust was one in which our people, culture, land and ideas were consumed by the metaphorical fire that raged across the continent and continues to rage this very day.
The repetitive use of the word "Nazi" aside, this is the first time I have personally heard Christopher Columbus equated with those who practiced genocide against the Jews, Gypsies and others during the Holocaust. And I do find it hard to believe that Columbus ever made it to Canada to give infected blankets to the Ottawas. As something of a history buff I have read a lot of "out there" stuff during my life, but a lot of this definitely pushes the boundaries a bit.
In another Yale Daily News article (click here), this one entitled "Students question value of Columbus Day celebration," we see John Harabedian continuing his crusade against Columbus Day a year later.
John Harabedian '04, former president of the Association of Native Americans at Yale, ANAAY, said he thinks Columbus Day should not be celebrated at all. Instead, Harabedian said, people should recognize Indigenous People's Day. He was part of a large campus demonstration in support of Indigenous People's Day last year.
"Our activities could be seen as protest because they force people to stop and question what Columbus Day truly commemorates and to reflect on the repercussions that have resulted from the actions of such explorers like Columbus," Harabedian said. "It is important to remember that this country's founding -- and the development of most modern societies -- has cost the lives of many indigenous populations and incurred the extinction of countless numbers of human beings."
Not everyone shares in Mr. Harabedian opinions here, and among those who vigorously oppose that viewpoint is the Commission for Social Justice, the anti-defamation arm of The Order Sons of Italy in America. Writing on behalf of those organizations, and defending the reputation of what for many Italian-Americans is a great national hero, Vincent Sarno and Albert De Napoli had this to say:
For much of its history, the United States considered Columbus a man worthy of admiration. Columbus Day is one of America's oldest patriotic holidays, first celebrated in the 18th century. America has more monuments to Columbus than any other nation in the world. Generations of American school children studied his life and accomplishments. Teachers held him up as an example of a person of character, who overcame strong opposition and great disappointment, but never gave up trying to prove what he believed to be true.
Since 1992, however, the reputation of Columbus has suffered at the hands of special interest groups who have used the 15th century Renaissance navigator to further their 21st century political and social agendas.
As a result, today Columbus is often depicted as a slave trader, racist, and even "the Hitler of the 15th century." A small but vocal number of historians, journalists, text-book writers and teachers have helped spread these charges despite their questionable foundation in historical fact.
They have done so principally by judging a quintessentially Renaissance man and his actions by contemporary values. It bears noting that England did not outlaw slavery in its colonies until 1833; the United States until 1865 and Brazil in 1888. Some nations in the Mid-East, Asia and Africa continue the practice today.
Despite this controversy, Italian Americans continue to hold Columbus in high regard both for his historic achievements and also because Columbus Day is the only day our nation recognizes the heritage of an estimated 16 to 26 million Americans of Italian descent, who are relentlessly stereotyped by the entertainment, news and advertising industries the other 364 days of the year.
Sarno and De Napoli have put together some materials in defense of both Christopher Columbus and a time-honored way of viewing our nation's shared history. Each having been horribly defamed in their opinion. Called "Columbus: Facts Vs. Fiction," you can access these documents by clicking here.