For decades before it was signed into law, many Italian-Americans had celebrated Columbus on their own.
Americans in general loved the Columbus story. Subsequently, Italian-Americans had every reason to seek this red, white and blue myth as shelter from the constant persecution for their own class, skin color and church. Who could blame them? Today it just makes me sad to have the image of Columbus as brave explorer still represent millions of Italian-Americans.
There is no shortage of reason for Italian pride sans Columbus. My favorite food is pizza. They have the best art. Their history is astounding. Furthermore, Italians themselves have a habit of being attractive. (Full disclosure: My wife is, among other things, of both Native- and Italian-American heritage.)
Knowing what we now know about Columbus, it seems an insult to continue to lionize him in this way. Also, did you know October is National Italian Heritage Month? I didn’t.
I could get behind that kind of celebration. There are so many Italian-Americans we could commemorate instead, like: Robert de Niro, Antonio Meucci (the real inventor of the telephone), Joe Pesci, Yogi Berra, Martin Scorsese, Joe DiMaggio. The list goes on and on. Heck, even the Jacuzzi family invented those hot tubs, and I happen to think that alone is better than Columbus.
Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.