On October 8, 2021, President Joe Biden proclaimed October 11 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. At the same time, he acknowledged Columbus Day as a federal holiday that would continue to recognize the contributions of Italian-Americans. This exercise was, in part, designed to placate a growing constituency in a widening “cancel culture” that opposes a celebration for a man who was nothing short of beastly to the indigenous populations that he and his Spanish patrons conquered and enslaved. Certainly, it would be more appropriate, and more civilized, to celebrate the victims rather than the victors.
It is hard not to agree with that line of thinking, but to do so ignores the genesis of the modern Columbus Day recognition. It is not a celebration of Columbus the man, but rather a celebration of Columbus the Italian, and ultimately the celebration of Italian-Americans.
As the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder, we begin to think of heading back to Texas. But we never leave before the closing event of the season: the plant auction at Carefree Gardens on October 10, Columbus Day.
One of our great pleasures at Cooperstown is our time spent at Carefree and at Origins Café, where, if I’m lucky, I get to shoot the breeze with my pal Brent Leonard. There are various versions of what Paradise may be like, but I prefer the Muslim one: a fragrant garden filled with bubbling fountains, with food and drinks served by beautiful women. I think I’ll convert to Islam so that when I die, if I’ve lived a good life, I’ll get to go to Origins Café and Carefree Gardens.
BIRD SEED WREATH – 7 – 8:30 p.m. Join the Oneonta Federated Garden Club to learn a fun craft to help the birds. Sally Lane and Sabrina Beckerink will demonstrate how to make bird seed wreaths to hang in the garden or give as a gift. A fun hands on program for the first Club meeting of the year. All are welcome. St. James Church, 305 Main St., Oneonta. 607-432-1458 or visit www.facebook.com/Oneonta-Federated-Garden-Club-133855897358767/
Editor’s Note: Claudia Tenney, former Republican Congressman from the Utica area, is running to unseat U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-22, on Nov. 3.
The iconoclasts are back. Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Francis Scott Key and dozens more must be canceled – centuries after they died.
A strange hubris has descended on a segment of our American society ― that they are the ultimate arbiter of truth, righteousness and justice. All those who fall short of their recently discovered but unquestionably pure virtues must be stricken down.
Now petitions and counter-petitions are circulating to tear down statues of Christopher Columbus in Syracuse and in my own home city of Utica. Absurdly, the Utica petition faults the explorer for causing the massacre of 100 million natives, and in Syracuse the statue is called “a symbol of Indigenous genocide and erasure.”
Putting aside such absurdly false claims, Columbus and his crews were not responsible for the crimes of subsequent conquerors and settlers, let alone the diseases which were the real root of much of the suffering of the New World’s inhabitants.
Facts seem to be no bother to the “history eaters” who devour the heritage and legacy of others as if completely meaningless.
History is our collective memory – it is the sum of our experiences whether they be triumphs or tragedies, common or extraordinary. We cannot control the events of the past any more than we can blot out the sun or drain the oceans. To pretend otherwise is more than folly, it is downright dangerous.
But that does not mean we must endorse the past as wholly good or ill. It was lived by imperfect beings, just like we are – frail and fallen. They achieved great things and committed terrible offenses.
Columbus’ dangerous and daring journey opened up the New World and laid the groundwork for the founding of our great country – the only nation ever founded on an idea that liberty and equality are man’s birthright from God. We have not always lived up to that high-minded ideal but we continue to strive toward “a more perfect Union” because we recognize our faults – we do not ignore them.
And that is what the pursuit of historical truth requires – that the good, the bad, and the ugly be laid bare and we seek to do better.
My community which erected that monument to Columbus is not blind to his faults but it refuses to judge him only by his sins and erase his great feats. Central New York and the congressional district I served, and seek to serve again, have some of the largest concentrations of Italian-Americans in the country. They are rightly proud of a man of their heritage that changed the world and opened the door for their ancestors’ and their own opportunities in our land of promise.
I, too, refuse to ignore the true facts. Instead, I seek to understand, appreciate, and improve.
The French statesman Alexis de Tocqueville famously wrote, “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”
To do that, we must remember. Those who want to force us to forget leave no room for the wisdom of the past to shine through or the revisions of the future to be written.
That these would-be statue-smashers might not have the full, immutable truth in their grasp is lost on them. So, they destroy – without hesitation and without self-reflection.
I choose not to live by such haughty, oblivious terms. As Americans, we should live up to our charge – and make our nation more just and free.
The plight of Native Americans – who these erasers claim to speak for – is one place where I have devoted a substantial amount of my time and free legal skills to make a difference in the now. I have advocated for a full-blooded Oneida Indian tribal leader, Melvin Phillips, for over a decade to secure his ancestral Treaty land against eviction by corrupt casino interests. Phillips seeks to honor and preserve the land and culture of his ancestors from powerful and wealthy native interests who seek to cancel their noble history. Like Phillips, who is disabled and lives modestly, the fate of millions of proud but powerless people is so often forgotten by the powerful and the supposed “social justice warriors.”
I ask them – before they throw paint or hack at a century-old statue with a pick-ax – why don’t they build up instead of destroy. Help others who do not have power or privilege realize the promise of this country.
Killing figures like Columbus is simply erasing our imperfect history, instead we should be writing the next chapter in bold colors.
Remember our country is not perfect, but we earnestly strive to be.
ICE CREAM – 1 – 7 p.m. Enjoy homemade ice cream in fall flavors. Also find fresh Apple Cider donuts, deep fried Pumpkin Pie. Features lots of indoor & outdoor seating for social distancing. Come enjoy scenic views with playhouses for the kids this Columbus Day. Polar Bear Homemade Ice Cream & More!, 5212 St. Hwy. 28 S., Oneonta. 607-434-0148 or visit www.facebook.com/Polar-Bear-Homemade-Ice-Cream-More-538187663021144/
KIDS HIKE – 10 – 11:30 a.m. Kids explore the world of trees, learn to identify the varieties using science/senses, learn the role trees play in our world. Mohican Farm, 7207 St. Hwy. 80, Cooperstown. 607-282-4087 or visit occainfo.org/calendar/get-the-kids-out-trees-2/
GET KIDS OUT – 10 – 11:30 a.m. Bring kids out for Columbus day, explore world of trees. Kids explore property, learn tree identification, understand trees roles in world, have fun. Mohican Farm, 7207 St. Hwy. 80, Cooperstown. 607-547-4488 or visit occainfo.org/calendar/get-the-kids-out-trees/
GARDEN CLUB – 7 p.m. Presentation by Dr. Robinson, curator of The Jewell and Arline Moss Settle Herbarium containing specimens from the North East spanning 1898-2015. Learn about history, function of teaching herbariums, their importance to past, future of plants. Club also offering free bags of daffodil bulbs. Includes refreshments, free, open to public. St. James Episcopal Church, 305 Main St., Oneonta. E-mail Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org
GARDEN CLUB – 7 p.m. Orchid expert Glen Decker presents to the Oneonta Federated Garden Club on his experiences traveling the world in search of orchid species and his work to reproduce his findings. Refreshments served. All welcome. St. James Episcopal Church, 305 Main St., Oneonta. E-mail Angie.Eichler@oneonta.edu for info.
DRAWING GROUP – 7-9 p.m. Come practice drawing with a live model. $10 donation. To attend call the Cooperstown Art Association, (607)547-9777