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America is a nation built upon myth (starting with its "discovery") but the greatest myth of all is that the land of the free is gonna last forever. But, alas, my History Channel-watching brethren, all genocidal empires must fall. Just ask Italy. Once the proud birthplace of DaVinci, Verdi, and my father; Italy must now bear the blame for producing Buttafuoco, Guiliani, and Janice Soprano. While the children of old Italia once rose up in defense of Sacco and Vanzetti, today’s paisan is busy trying to explain Fabio.
Indeed, when the mighty fall, they do tend to go for the gusto.
I ponder this irony as we approach yet another Columbus Day…24 hours set aside to revere Italy’s version of the Terminator. Upon encountering the Arawak people in 1492, Columbus noted that they "would make fine servants," adding, "with fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want." Yeah, Governor Arnold’s got nothing on Chris "The Continent Cleanser" Columbus.
Below the elevated platform at the Astoria Boulevard N/W train station, my neighborhood plays host to Columbus Square…which is actually shaped like a warped triangle. Let Manhattan have its rather simplistic circle…we in Queens are far more geometrically sophisticated. It’s a square triangle for us. Naturally, a statue of Christopher Columbus adorns this triangular square. If one were to believe this sculptor’s rendition, Chris the Capo spent plenty of time in the Santa Maria Tennis and Fitness Club. This statue is pumped. He’s got biceps to die for and a set of pecs that are literally bursting out of his manly shirt.
Yes, Columbus is buffed and ready for genocide. An engraved plate on the ground under the statue reads: "But not for Columbus, there would be no America." As I stomp on those intolerable words with my dirt-infested sneakers, I envision that first conversation:
COLUMBUS: Red man, we want your land and everything on it.
INDIAN: Okay, muscular paleface, but what will you offer in return?
COLUMBUS: Venereal disease, small pox, the destruction of your culture, genocide, Christianity, and a really bad image in John Wayne flicks.
INDIAN: Can you toss in a few casinos?
COLUMBUS: Sure, but you’ll have to wait about 500 years.
INDIAN: Okay, Chris, you’ve got a deal. With that conversation in mind, I ascend the stairs to the train.
Happy Indigenous People’s Day…
MICKEY Z. is the author of Saving Private Power: The Hidden History of "The Good War". He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.