Monday, October 8, 2007

Columbus Day

Today we (some of us) observe Columbus Day, in honor of one of the most famous Italians.

Predictably, Indians are raising hell (and getting arrested) stating that the discovery is the beginning of a long history of genocide toward their people. I do not call them "Native Americans" because the term is ideologically loaded- I am also a Native (born in San Francisco) and American (passport says so). What would have been the alternative to colonization and takeover- leaving the enormous land mass of the Americas to indigenous peoples in perpetuity, while the rest of the world caved in to overpopulation? That way Europe could have reached its debacle even sooner, but without the New World to come to its aid (a lot of thanks we've gotten there).

Could there have been a peaceful coexistence between Indians and Europeans upon the arrival of the latter? No, the Indians themselves did not co-exist peacefully amongst themselves in pre-Columbian America. Some vilify Cristoforo as a slave trader. So let's expunge slave owners George Washington and Thomas Jefferson from our history.

While some want to disown him, others who should probably know better are trying to own him, by claiming that he wasn't Italian at all. This is an especially popular sport among Spaniards, who are indulging in all sorts of ill-documented theories and gathering DNA samples from all over. Last night's 60 minutes sheds much-needed light on the limits of DNA testing in genealogy.

To paraphrase Native American (from New York) Herman Melville: "Ah Christopher, ah humanity!"

Above, a posthumous portrait of Columbus by the (possibly) Italian painter Sebastiano del Piombo.