Monday, October 14, 2013

Cabotto Day

I came across the Oatmeal's "Bartolome Day" rant, shared by several facebook friends, and it has inspired my own rant-back.  While indeed Bartolome certainly holds the moral high ground over Christopher Columbus, he's kind of missing the original point of Columbus Day, which he glosses over briefly:  "Columbus Day was established in the 1930s by a male-only Catholic Organization known as the Knights of Columbus.  They wanted a male Catholic role model their kids could look up to, so they pressured Roosevelt into making it a federal holiday."  First of all, why does he say "male-only Catholic" like it's evil or something?  For one thing, the Knights of Columbus organization is just a group that tries to do good for its community, much like other male-only community clubs such as the Rotary Club or the Elks Lodge or the Lions Club.  Yes, it's Catholic.  Have a problem with that?  I can't tell you how tired I am that it's totally PC to bash Catholicism but pretty much no other religion.  Yeah, the Catholic Church has done some hideous things over the years.  But also some good things.  And pretty much every other religion has also done some shitty things. 

Also, in the 1930s, Catholicism was the religion of the unwashed masses of immigrants flooding in to America for the past hundred years or so, starting with that damn potato famine in the 1840s.  It was looked down upon by the establishment, hence why the Knights of Columbus wanted a positive role model for their kids to look up to (as far as being male, it was the 1930s, I don't think it would have occurred to anyone to find a famous female role model yet).  Finally, my most important point, the KoC wanted an ITALIAN role model for their children.  Because the Irish had already arrived a little sooner and spoke English, they were already pretty well established in the US.  They had also found their way into the political system and thus into power.  Plus they had St. Patrick's Day to celebrate!  The Italians were still struggling to find their place in American society, and they wanted their own celebration of their heritage, so they turned to Christopher Columbus.  Pardon their ignorance (Howard Zinn's People's History had yet to be written); they thought Columbus was a famous Italian with a connection to the New World, and a man the who could represent them well.  They were probably completely unaware of the baggage that went along with Columbus.  So they could have made a better choice.  While Bartolome sounds like a swell guy, he was Spanish, not Italian, so he wouldn't have fit the bill.  Which is why I propose:  John Cabot, aka, Giovanni Cabotto. 

Cabot sailed for England in 1497, so he wasn't the first. But he did land in North America, not South America (technically Canada, but that's closer than San Salvador), and he didn't enslave the native population.  Also, in sailing for England, he was probably more instrumental in the eventual development of the USofA from the British Colonies than Columbus was in sailing for Spain.  So, my proposal:  Cabotto Day. Rant in honor of:  Richard Castriotta and Orson Cook.