Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Happy Columbus Day #5 -- October 12, 2011

Happy Columbus Day to those of you who still remember it.

Walter Russel Mead's blog Via Meadia has an interesting article on the origins of Columbus Day:

"In American history, the fight to make a holiday on Columbus Day actually had almost nothing to do with the actual arrival of Christopher Columbus in the western hemisphere. It wasn’t about celebrating the European conquest of the Americas or the extirpation of the native tribes.

"The day was made a holiday after years of lobbying as a way of recognizing the contribution of Roman Catholics and immigrants generally to American life.  It is a holiday to celebrate diversity, not to commemorate the imperial outreach of Ferdinand and Isabella, a deeply regrettable couple who were notorious oath breakers, inquisitors and anti-Semites.

"Back in the 1930s there was a widespread feeling among both Protestant and Catholic Americans that Roman Catholics, and especially Catholics from non-English speaking countries, were not and could not be “real Americans”. Al Smith, the popular governor of New York, was the first Roman Catholic ever nominated for the presidency by a major party; suspicion of his religion made his defeat even greater than usual, as many solidly Democratic and pro-Prohibition voters in the South deserted the Catholic 'wet' to vote for the reliably dry Protestant, Herbert Hoover.

"For the KKK in those days, Catholics were one of the foreign influences that 'real' Americans had to fight, and many Protestant whites still considered Italians, Greeks and other southern European ethnic groups to be too 'swarthy' to be fully white."

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