A turquoise-colored sign on the door of my bank announcing closure on October 10 because of Indigenous Peoples’ Day inspired me to beat a path to a teller, even though I was not there for banking.
“Excuse me,” I said. “But I have a fun question for you…”
The question was far from fun but I didn’t want to appear strident. “Regarding the sign on the door…. What happened to the holiday called Columbus Day?” The teller rolled her eyes and said the wording on the sign was not the bank’s fault. She explained that the bank had made up a different sign that mentioned Columbus Day but the City of Philadelphia had forced them to scratch out Columbus and insert Indigenous Peoples Day (IPD).
“We didn’t do it,” she assured me.
I recalled how in February 2021 Mayor Jim Kenney signed an executive order effectively changing Columbus Day in the City of Philadelphia with the (Communist China-sounding) IPD-identifier. That executive order had come after a contentious period beginning in 2020 with the George Floyd riots when left activist mobs attempted to pull down the Frank Rizzo statue (after dousing it in paint and dressing it up in a woman’s bra) located on the steps of the city’s Municipal Services Building since 1998.
As it turned out, the leftists didn’t have to dismantle the statue because Mayor Kenny announced that the city was making plans to remove it and put it into storage.
With the Rizzo statue gone, the Columbus statue in South Philadelphia’s Marconi Plaza became the city’s new Public Enemy No. 1.
Columbus statues were already being removed and beheaded around the country. Across the Delaware River, Camden, New Jersey had dismantled (and smashed to pieces) its Columbus statue in Farnham Park.
The self-righteous fury with which American Marxists destroyed Columbus statues in 2020 traces its origins to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, a book stocked with half-truths and historical distortions where Columbus is concerned. When demonstrators arrived at Marconi Plaza in South Philadelphia to protest the 20-foot-tall statue, or perhaps to topple it with ropes, neighborhood groups came out to defend it, some armed with bats and guns.
The legacy media in Philadelphia quickly jumped on the neighborhood groups and branded them as racists. It was a telling moment for the city.
Today, the Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza is boxed up in a wooden coffin until the city decides what to do with it. The Rizzo statue, by the way, is in storage.
The Marconi Plaza Columbus statue is the work of Italian sculptor Emanuele Caroni. It was originally made for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in the city’s Fairmont Park section, where it stood outside the U.S. Government Building. Dedicated on October 12, 1876, the statue was viewed by thousands of visitors to the Centennial, including poet Walt Whitman.
Although Columbus Day is technically a federal holiday, since 2020 130 cities in the United States have chucked the name for Indigenous Peoples Day (IPD). The trend was already in high gear in 2017 when TIME magazine reported that 55 cities had eliminated all references to Columbus Day, thanks mostly to Zinn, who died in 2010, and his devious “history.”
It was Zinn, after all, who said: “History is not about understanding the past but about changing the future.” His little book is now required reading in many high schools and colleges, despite numerous challenges to its credibility from (of all people) leftwing historians.
Sadly, academic attacks on Zinn have done nothing to curtail his influence. The most noteworthy of these attacks, Mary Grabar’s book, Debunking Howard Zinn, might as well have been published in a vacuum. Zinn’s popularity just keeps growing and growing.
The Zinn Education Project is a case in point.
This insidious online source is for schools and organizations that want to help in the abolition of Columbus Day. The site is also a marketplace for ‘Abolish Columbus Day’ stickers for your car and home. You can also download web banners and graphics for your local activist Unitarian Church or leftist community meeting.
The ‘How to rename Columbus Day’ website states:
If you still feel that a slaver, mass murderer, rapist, and simpleminded gold-seeker who never set foot on this continent should be one of only two people to have a U.S. holiday named after him, please explore more. If you’re ready for your city or university to join the over 100 others that have already renamed Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, this page will point you in the right direction.
While Italian American groups have been notable in their opposition to eradicating Columbus Day, can these groups really battle the tide of woke anti-Columbus sentiment sweeping the nation?
Jody Della Barba, Secretary of the Philadelphia-based 1492 Society which organizes an annual (non city sponsored) Columbus Day parade, sees the abolition of Columbus Day as a double whammy, an attack on Italian Americans but an even greater attack on Catholicism.
Barba is right, of course.
Leftists, who tend to have no religion and who have a special contempt for Christianity, see Columbus as a murderer and a ruthless governor of the New World territories under his control. His savagery, they say, was rooted in a lust for gold, meaning gold for gold’s sake. What Zinn neglects in his “history” is that the explorer’s search for gold was to finance the Crusade to retake Jerusalem from the Muslims.
In a December 1492 letter to King Fernando and Queen Isabel, Columbus wrote that it was his intention “to spend all the profits of this my enterprise on the conquest of Jerusalem.”
But here we have an even greater reason to condemn Columbus because extricating Muslims from the Holy City, if viewed through a woke lens, can only be seen as Islamophobic.
Zinn, who charges the United States as being “a racist criminal enterprise built on murdering Indians, exploiting slaves, and opposing the working man,” left out of his “history” the fact that when Columbus first arrived in Hispaniola, he announced to the natives that, “The monarchs of Castile have sent us not to subjugate you but to teach you the true religion.”
Neither is there a mention of a 1502 letter Columbus wrote a letter to Pope Alexander VI in which he asked that missionaries be sent to the New World so they could accept Christ.
Zinn mentioning Christ is as impossibly “out there” as the prospect of President Biden mentioning (or quoting) an article by the Freedom Center’s Robert Spencer.
All of which means that Columbus’ real sin (from a woke point of view) is his promulgation of Christianity.
The thousands of students, mayors, legislative bodies and school boards across the nation that have been hoodwinked by Zinn’s historical acrobatics will go through life blissfully unaware that Columbus recorded in his diary that the natives he encountered “…love their neighbors as themselves, and they have the sweetest speech in the world and [they are] gentle and always laughing.”
They will also never know that Columbus had a rigorous policy that his crew exchange gifts with the natives they met and not just steal what they wanted.
They will be ignorant of the fact that Columbus’ policy was so unbending that on the explorer’s third voyage in 1500 he hanged men who disobeyed him by harming the native people.
They will also continue to denigrate Columbus with October hash tags like: “I’m celebrating Columbus Day by walking into a stranger’s home and claiming it as my own.” Or: “Columbus Day has become like that drunk uncle everyone is ashamed of.”
They will then go on to eradicate other historical names that challenge the notion that history is about changing the future.
Evidence of this can be seen in a city-sponsored advertisement announcing an Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration on October 10, 2022 in historic Penn Treaty Park where William Penn signed a peace treaty with the Lenape in 1652. The ad, however, does not list Penn Treaty Park as the area’s rightful name (since 1893) but uses the native (and woke) Shackamaxon Park label with “Penn Treaty” added as an “aka.”
Only the naïve would dismiss this as a meaningless detail. Rather, this subtle change is the beginning of a process that I’m sure will lead to a total name change in time.
After all, William Penn was a wealthy, white slave owner.