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Editorial: A day off, not a day on

Last Monday, a motley crew of kooks and food vendors, watched by a handful of bemused students, gathered on the Main Green to protest the University's renaming of Columbus Day as Fall Weekend. The congregation was heralded by an ingeniously postmodern flier campaign that omitted outmoded, deterministic details such as the time the event would take place.

At stake, apparently, was the very foundation of the United States of America. President of the Brown Republicans Keith Dellagrotta '10 put it worst: "American Indians knew not Christianity, and thus lacked the bedrock to construct a great United States of America as we know it today. Columbus, however, was their saving grace." Obviously, Dellagrotta knew not that he was putting his foot in his mouth. Last we checked, the establishment clause was still on the books. And "saving grace" is a bit off the mark for the fellow whose ships inadvertently brought the first of the European microbes that would decimate the population of the Americas; most of the dead never saw a crucifix.

Certainly, the champions of Fall Weekend have made equally clueless statements. Take Reiko Koyama '11, who led the charge against Columbus Day at Brown and told The Herald last week that the holiday "has nothing to do with Italian-American pride." In fact, Italian-Americans have long rallied to the Genoese Columbus — celebrated here widely since before the birth of the United States — to fight anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic persecution by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Even in Providence, many citizens of Italian heritage turned to Columbus to counter the prejudices of the pre-existing Irish and Anglo-Saxon communities.

But the advent of Fall Weekend was no ethnic insult. Brown's students would much, much sooner strip naked in public than don white robes. Columbus lost his place on the University's academic calendar because he launched the enslavement and devastation of the peaceful native peoples of Hispaniola, and because the holiday has served its purpose — bigotry is no longer a serious threat to Italian-Americans.

Maybe another name change is in order. Our deep-blue faculty would be happy to rechristen Fall Weekend as Cuomo Day. We're sure that the University's morally upright dons could even scrape together enough cynicism to get behind Cicilline Day, if it finally buries the student tax. What say you, wingnuts? Will you leave us alone then?

Probably not. Whatever their motivations, the crowd's rabidly anti-Brown sentiment is obviously deep-seated. Among the crackpots was Chris Young, a man whose major achievement is failing in more than one electoral contest in a single year; he recently volunteered to be Mayor Cicilline's punching bag in the Democratic primary. The Herald reported that Young made the risible claim that "Brown should pay property taxes if they're going to become politically active by removing a national holiday." Young wasn't alone: Several other Columbus enthusiasts also embraced the most misconceived justification yet for taxing one of Providence's biggest assets.

In fact, the name change bears no resemblance to the types of consequential political advocacy — such as endorsing and campaigning for candidates and legislation — that would actually endanger the University's tax exemption. As far as the law is concerned, we could consecrate our academic calendar's second Monday in October to the Flying Spaghetti Monster as long as we don't officially admit that all Brunonians — even Dellagrotta — accept Obama as their lord and savior.


Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to editorials(at)browndailyherald.com.




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