We know that it already takes a lot of their minimal mental capacity every October for Columbus Day fanatics to put another round of exhilarating festivities behind them and move on with the rest of the year, but before they fold up their Italian flags or Gucci wife-beaters or whatever they wave in the air to commemorate genocide and white privilege, I have an uncomfortable message for my celebratory paesans: You’re some serious dummies for more reasons than you realize.
It’s not just that Christopher Columbus was a homicidal racist, and nothing to be proud of, though it would be nice if local news outlets noted such things (and the demonstrations against parades in his name) instead of printing sappy trash about how former Boston Mayor Tom Menino worshipped the occasion. More important though is that anyone who digs Columbus Day should probably consider another one of our past municipal honchos, namely John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, maternal grandfather of President John F. Kennedy. The only reason that Columbus Day means spit in Boston is because the likes of Honey Fitz, who served six years as mayor between 1906 and 1914 and as a state lawmaker before that, turned the holiday into a blowout in order to—as author Marisa Abrajano describes such pandering phenomena in her book, Campaigning to the New American Electorate—“gain the support of the Italian immigrants.”
As years went by, the true and superficial meaning of Columbus Day in these parts was forgotten, while human meatballs like Buddy Cuozzo, grand marshal of the parade back in the 1990s, went on honoring their boy in ignorance. In 1992, Cuozzo told the New York Times, “We’re Italian-Americans, and they’ve taken all our heroes away from us.” Summarizing the position of every embarrassment to prop Columbus since, Cuozzo said that Frank Sinatra had been vilified in the press, and called Columbus “the last hero we have.” “He discovered America,” claimed Cuozzo. “Why don’t they leave the guy alone?”
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.