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The Brookline Massacre


Since Iíve taken on the role as President of the Pirandello, Iíve taken to the pen again. Although my background is in science and education, in another life I was a journalist, writer and a publisher. I got into it because I had something to say and there were, at the time, not many ways to say it and be heard.


First, let me say that I write as an individual, and as a proud Italian-American, not in my official role as the President of the Pirandello Lyceum.


This is a story. Everybody loves and good story, replete with a thorny plot, sordid characters, heroes and a godawful tragic ending. Itís a short story, so donít get nervous.

Act 1: The Setup

A small group of Italian-Americans representing the Italian American Alliance (IAA) asked to attend the Brookline Town Meeting to speak to the assembled. The IAA opposes the sacking of Columbus Day as a public holiday.

The group had been informed that a Brookline group - Iíll call it a cabal - had presented a motion before the Town to erase Columbus Day as a public holiday and replace it with Indigenous Peopleís Day.

Representatives of the Italian American Alliance planned to attend the Town Meeting. I heard about it and thought, even though not asked to speak, I would give the Pirandello Lyceum at least a presence. I arrived early to scope out the terrain.

I was first met outside Brookline High School, where the meeting was held, by apparently college-age young people, with placards supporting Indigenous Peopleís Day.
They didnít pay attention to me. Perhaps I looked like one of the natives.

I placed myself in a strategic position in the back of the hall, again, to scope the terrain. The rest of those representing Italian-Americans arrived shortly after.

Act 2: Remember the Alamo

From the get-go, it was clear that this was going to be a rerun of the Alamo! I was in hostile territory, to be sure. The comments I heard were both anti-Columbus and anti-Italian.

The comments from the proponents of the measure to eliminate Columbus Day began with a young high school age girl who read her script well. Her editorial, given as Godís-truth testimony, would have sent Mother Theresa to the gallows! The crowd, as jury, gave her a rousing ovation. It was all over before it even started. Speaker after speaker came up to deride Columbus in every way imaginable. They could find nothing good that came from Christopher Columbusí discovery.

To be fair, there was one Brookline resident, a teacher I believe, who rose to say one should be careful about attempts to rewrite history as a remedy for the problems that plague us. I didnít get all of what he was saying, but the gist of it was that he was cautioning against a decision that didnít take into account the context of Columbusí time. Besides, he said, if one looked for perfection in the character of our national champions, one would be hard pressed to find it; John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson, to name a few, were hardly perfect, yet their flaws have been largely disregarded. With only a polite, almost inaudible, applause, it was obvious he made little impact. The audience was there for one reason, and it was not to reason.

Act 3: Betrayal

The members of Italian American Alliance, who had been given to believe they would be able to speak - even though they were not residents of Brookline - prepared to argue that honoring Columbus on Columbus Day with a Holiday was important to Italian-Americans and was also right for all Americans. They were prepared to argue that Columbus, although not perfect, was a product of his time, and that his discoveries have had world consequences, most of them beneficial to mankind. They were prepared to say most because, like almost all those who break new ground, Christopher Columbus wasnít perfect

To their shock, however, they were not allowed to speak. According to the Town Meeting rules, if seven people rose, the ďoutsidersĒ could be denied their chance to speak. At least seven people immediately rose, and the moderator declared that the Italian American Alliance speakers would not be allowed to speak. No discussion, but there was certainly palpable joy throughout the audience that they had been beaten back.
Act 4: The Brookline Massacre

They left, with hats in hand, to the snickers, smirks and snide remarks, and even some laughter. The vote was taken, and Christopher Columbus became persona non-grata. In a way. I have to say, I took it personally. I couldnít avoid feeling that I was an alien in my own country.

To his credit, the moderator of the meeting, I donít know his name, did call the Italian American Alliance the next day, and said that perhaps there should be a review of the Town Meeting rules that determine who can speak and who cannot.

Nice gesture, but somehow, I donít think he reflected the temperament of the audience. In any event, it was after-the-fact and therefore made no difference.

Italian and American Flags 2014 Parade East Boston

The Epilogue

I wish I could say that the Italian American Alliance left licking their wounds, but there were no wounds - no visible ones anyway. They werenít even allowed on the battlefield! There was no outcry to let them speak. To put it in the vernacular, the fix was in.

A few days later, I attended a meeting the Italian American Alliance was having at the Order Sons of Italy in Watertown. They were there to reflect on the Brookline Massacre, and to strategize. There were only about eight of them. Iíll say it again, eight of them! Where are the rest of us?

What I observed at that meeting was a fledgling new organization that is determined to lead the way in preserving Italian heritage. The Alliance is still small but it is energetic, focused and well led. Anyone looking to support the effort to preserve Italian Heritage should look to them for guidance.

Incidentally, to fund their campaign, the group was passing out chance-books to sell to their friends. Can you imagine?

Itís my personal belief that the attack on Christopher Columbus is part of a larger conspiracy to rewrite American history and traditions along the lines of political correctness. Italian-Americans seem not to see or understand that this is an assault on their Italian heritage. Look closely at what is happening in America. The internal divisions are out of control and often fanatical. It suggests, to me at least, that there is a master conductor and a master banker behind it all.

In any event, Italian-Americans seem not to have been able to respond effectively. The ďWhyĒ of this is difficult to answer.

Perhaps the problem lies in the Italian tradition that Italy as a country is younger than the United States, and that isolationism, to put it politely, is part of the Italian character. Itís not unheard of, for example, for Napollitani to disagree with say Catanese, only because they are from different parts of Italy.

Perhaps itís simply indifference. Gloria Steinem once said that members of less powerful groups are raised to believe that each individual can escape the group's fate. She argues that this discourages cohesion and fosters disunity.

Perhaps itís a lack of more good leadership.

Perhaps itís all three.

My next questions are equally difficult to answer: whatís to be done and by whom and when?

More later.
Domenic Amara, Boston, Massachusetts

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