Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Lee Dresselhaus / L’Observateur / October 18, 2000

So’.here we go again. You know, if it weren’t so idiotic it would be funny. Come to think of it, it maybe funny anyway. On Columbus Day a large group of Indians (can I say”Indians” or do I have to say “Native Americans?” I can never remember.)decided to protest in Denver and attempted to block a Columbus Day parade.

Their reason? Because they think that Columbus was a fascist and a slaver and a conqueror who practiced genocide against the innocent natives of the New World. They don’t think that he should be honored in any way so theydecided to block that parade. A bunch of them were hauled off to jail fortheir trouble and as far as I know the parade went on as scheduled.

Personally, I’m glad to see that neither hypocrisy nor a blatant use of modern politically correct dogma for your own ends seems to know no ethnic barriers.

What am I talking about? The fact is that the native American Indian tribes (can I say “tribes” or do I have to say “socio-economically inter-dependent groups?” I can never remember that, either.) fought with each otherthroughout their history on this continent. Taking the survivors of the tribethey just beat the tar out of – or maybe eradicated altogether as a practical matter – as slaves was a common practice. I hate to break the news, butIndians were subject to the exact same human faults as everyone else out there at the time. And “at the time” is the key phrase here. I might as well make everyone mad while I’m at it. Let me address the issueof Columbus being a slaver and an authoritarian fascist. They’re right. Hewas. But let’s put this whole thing into perspective for both sides. In those days, just about everyone was fascist, government-wise, that is. Ifyou weren’t, you didn’t last long. Why? Because some other government whoviewed things from a less-enlightened podium would look at you and figure, hey, we can kick the stuffing out of those people and take what they have.

Kindness wasn’t just viewed as a weakness on the behalf of nations, it WAS a weakness. If your army was bigger than your neighbor’s army, well, yourneighbor had better do things the way you wanted them to or you just went in, clobbered them, took their stuff, and made them do it anyway.

That’s an historical fact of life that we seem to want to ignore in these days of political correctness. Was it right? No. Of course not. Was it wrong? Bytoday’s standards, sure it was. But what are we supposed to do about itnow? Should we rewrite the history books, or just get rid of them altogether and start over from whenever it was that we became so enlightened? Columbus did what was done in those days. Furthermore, he didn’t do muchto anyone that they hadn’t been doing to each other throughout history. Toprotest it now borders on the imbecilic.

We’ve lost our sense of perspective in these days of political correctness. Ionce read that the Mexican-American War in the early 1800’s was nothing but a land grab by the fledgling United States, an opportunity for expansionism at the expense of the Mexican government. Well, whoeverwrote that was right. It probably was. Worked, too. We got Texas, NewMexico, Arizona and California out of the deal. All because we were able tobeat up the Mexican army and take it. But, here’s where that perspectivething comes in.

If the shoe had been on the other foot and the Mexican army had been larger, or better, or whatever, the Mexican border right now would probably be somewhere around, oh, say, Canada. They would not have hesitated to do theexpansionism thing, had they been able to do so. We won. They lost. Sorry. My point is, there is no right or wrong there. We tend to judge all thosethings like that by using today’s standards as a yardstick. Standards thatnot only didn’t apply then, they didn’t exist.

I’ve heard it said that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

People like William Wallace and Geronimo, as well as Washington, Robert E.

Lee, and Ho Chi Minh, for instance. How you view them depends on where youstand as far as who lost and who won, doesn’t it? I’ve always found it interesting that when Custer got his butt handed to him at the Little Big Horn it was called a “massacre” of white soldiers and not a victory by the Indians. See what I mean about perspective? Well, one man’s explorer and hero is another man’s conqueror and harbinger of doom. Columbus is a hero to Americans, and to Italian-Americans inparticular. Should they apologize for him, or call off celebrations in his namesimply because he lived in a time when standards were different and people the world over were more barbaric – including Indians? No, of course not.

At least, that’s my perspective.

LEE DRESSELHAUS writes this column every Wednesday for L’Observateur.

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