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
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.
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
They didnít pay attention to me. Perhaps I looked like one of
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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
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
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.
itís all three.
My next questions are equally difficult to
answer: whatís to be done and by whom and when?
Domenic Amara, Boston, Massachusetts