Don’t use it to foist your bias, oh who are we kidding.
On this week’s Hindsight 2021, we explored the raging abortion issue across the ocean blue to The Vatican, and then set sail around the west indies to cover women’s right’s in California’s public schools. But the teeth of this savage weekly capsule bit right into the Columbus Day controversy that had statues being knocked over last year and featured wide-ranging protests over the suffering endured by Native Americans beginning over 500 years ago, which paved the way for diseases and forced relocation, which paved the way for alcohol and drug addictions and then paved the way to multi-million dollar casino ownership.
My argument fell short of taking an honest look from the Indigenous People’s point of view. Not that anybody complained, actually I was expecting some feisty responses but I guess nobody caught Hindsight 2021 this week. I sometimes go on a tangent and fail to cover a base or two, and this was one of those times. I was too busy trying to figure out how Columbus and his crew would be able to have any possible idea that they would be bringing lethal diseases with them in their bodies and realizing that Native Americans had no way to prepare a strong resistance to them. The explorers didn’t have any clue that they would find a new civilization at all beforehand. I mean, The FDA wasn’t really TRYING to murder bald eagles either when they sprayed DDT up and down our suburban streets in the ’60s, and nobody is second-guessing them now. And with all of the scientific knowledge we have gained SINCE 1492, I think the onus on dropping the ball gets more severe as we evolve.
As to the deliberate treatment of fellow human beings, however, it appears that Columbus was as much of a douche as every other sailor and explorer of the time. Hey, you are living in the late 1400s. Your life expectancy is right now. You have one shot to risk everything you have in the world on a two-month Harrod Experiment on the open sea, crossing areas completely unknown to the Old World, in boats that have no business whatsoever navigating North Atlantic trade winds, and then you hit the jackpot. You’ve gotta be letting a bit of a God Complex in there somewhere. And not a nice God, either. There is also a bit of narrative that has to at least acknowledge that the Native Americans were not all that nice to each other to begin with, slavers themselves to some degree, and proud conductors of guttural human sacrifices that would make Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin say “Fuck Me”.
But my focus was more on my perceived bias that Americans hold toward Italian-Americans, which I know a thing or two about myself, and my theory is that some who want to banish Columbus Day are more interested in shutting down any love for Italians than in humbly recognizing the Indigenous. I like Bill Hader. Dammit, maybe I love him. I was lucky to work with him in a couple of SNL sketches and once stood silently and awkwardly close to him in a tiny makeshift closet for 5 minutes while he browsed a copy of The New Yorker. And I know first-hand that the last meal he ate before his last ever cast appearance on the show was a black bean burger. True stories, amazing, I know. But his impression of Italian-American Anthony Scaramucci in 2017 was totally insulting to Italian culture.
With all of the modern social demands on tap for an Asian actor to play an Asian (such as in the “Aloha” debacle with Emma Stone, whom I also like and maybe love), and for trans and LGBTQ roles to be played only by same, it comes off as brusque when a German, Dutch, Irish, English man like Hader dishes out a worn mafioso trope for cheap laughs. Not at Scaramucci’s expense, because fuck that guy. But from all of the hooty audience encouragement, the message sent out over the air to America was “Go ahead, fuck with the Italians, nobody cares”. Well, you see, I do care. But.
I’m also a part of the problem. As an actor who has an unmistakeable Italian-American appearance, I have found that my Mensa card is persona non grata in auditions, and the roles that my headshot lands for me are plumbers, cab drivers, jewel fencers, mafia soldiers, restaurant waiters, psychopathic murderers, used car salesman, and limo drivers. These are literally the parts I’ve played on screen in the last two years. Oh, and two roles as a Russian mob boss and Russian Asshole (Seriously, my screen credit in the Season 3 premiere of Showtime’s Billions is “Russian Asshole”). And if Russian actors have a bone to pick with me, I totally get it. But by playing along with my stereotype, I’m not helping my brethren out one bit. I’m an Uncle Tomasello, but my impact is so minimal that you really can’t detect that I’m pissing in the ocean. Or that’s how I sleep at night, anyway.
So then, my suggestion to “share” the holiday isn’t really about Columbus, it’s about coaxing those of Italian descent and Native American descent into buddying up on this one. This could be a partnership that future pairings might learn from. Entire months are dedicated to other races and creeds, various religious dates are peacefully acknowledged across beliefs, and the Irish not only get a top-notch party holiday in March, but they also have their own damn college with off-the-charts funding from giant firms and major television networks.
So, please accept my olive oil branch, all of you not-watchers of Hindsight 2021 and not-readers of my companion blog. I hope to rile you up at some other point in the near future and then bada-bing bada-boom we can hash it all out. Peace.