Monday, October 8, 2012

My Uncle Discovered America. You Have a Problem With That?

The “discovery” of America to this day is a subject that seems to elude us Americans, for reasons I can’t comprehend. It’s not really that complicated: to begin with, America wasn’t “discovered”.  Not anymore than your own house would be “discovered” by a band of gypsies that helped themselves to the leftover meatloaf in your kitchen while you were out for a walk. Yet here we are, 2012 and we’re still telling a whole group of prior occupants that we “discovered” them. Now, no one’s giving anything back, slow down there Tea Partiers and unapoligists before you hurt yourselves.  But to quote Jon Stewart, stop trying to make Bullshit Mountain any higher than it already is.

To be fair, most recent school textbooks have stopped using the term “discovered”.  Instead, they’re using the more politically correct term “fucked over”. Which means, now the tide has turned against my great-great-great-great-great uncle Cristoforo Colombo (Christopher Columbus).  You see, uncle Cristoforo was born in Genoa, (Genova) Italy, like my daughter, her great grandfather before her, his great grandfather before him, and all the way to uncle Cristoforo.  My daughter, by the way, was born in Genoa exactly five-hundred years AFTER her great uncle Cristoforo discov… uh, fucked America over.  Oh the humanity.

OK, so somewhere along the line the conversation shifted from “Who discovered America?” to “Who fucked America?”  Fair enough.  But I’m not about to let that conversation go gently into the night… oh no uncle Cristoforo.  As luck would have it, 25% of my family was native American, the other 75% was Italian.  Native South American to be precise.  Apparently a tribe so tough (the Aymaras) that even the mighty Incas said, "we’re not fucking around with them."  I asked my dad one day about this, and he told me something interesting.  He said, “You know son, my great, great, grandfather was probably not much nicer than Genghis Khan.  We idealize native American tribes quite a bit, but the truth is, they had their own demons and atrocious behavior at times.”  And there it was, the moment of Zen in the “who fucked America more” pissing contest.  There ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys.

So just for fun, let’s re-shift the conversation to “Which really-white guy arrived to America first?”  Now THAT race belongs to three great European explorers: Leif Ericson, Uncle Cristoforo, and Giovanni Caboto (Giovanni later changed his name to John Cabot, like all immigrant explorers who were bullied at explorer school in the New World).  To be fair, let’s start chronologically: Ericson was a mighty Norse Viking Icelander, which basically means he drank a lot and wore a steel helmet – probably because he drank a lot.  Keep in mind, for someone that drank a lot he didn’t just beat Columbus by a day or two:  we’re talking about five-hundred years BEFORE uncle Cristoforo.  So why was old Leif robbed of the historic honor of “the very-white guy who first fucked America”?  Well, minor technicality, as always: Leif’s trip actually started in Iceland.  That's like saying you discovered Canada and you live in Detroit. 

Icelanders and Scandinavian in general are a little sore about this subject, by the way.  If you ever want to have a little fun, bring that up at a bar in Reykjavik, in Oslo, or in Copenhagen.  I will say this for the old Viking: he actually called the new found land he had discovered “Vinland” (“Wine Country”).  Awesome name if you ask me.  But Canadians many years later had a better idea.  They thought the new found land should be called Newfoundland. Those wild and crazy Canadians can get out of control sometimes. 

Five-hundred years later, uncle Cristoforo borrowed a few bucks from the queen of Spain and told her he would pick up some tea for her in Japan.  He landed instead in the Bahamas. Now to be fair to uncle Cristoforo, if you look at any wall map, the Bahamas is only three feet away from Japan.  Slightly off course, little did he know he had just set the official precedent for all Italian modes of transportation over the next five-hundred years.  If you don't believe me, grab a taxi in Rome some time and give the driver the exact address of where you're going. Let me just help you with his reply here: “N’do cazzo si trova??” is just Roman for “Where the fuck is that?

Which brings us to John Cabot.  I have to say, this one I don’t get. A few historians have a beef with uncle Cristoforo because technically he only made it to the Caribbean and Central America.  So they give the honor of the discovery of NORTH America to John Cabot.  That’s just great.  Except for one minor detail: the only record of John Cabot ever landing on the shores of North America was in NEWFUCKINGFOUNDLAND.  Yeah, exactly five-hundred years after Leif Ericson.  Talk about Oldfoundland.

So there you have it. I have vindicated my family by doing what every good patriot in any God-fearing country does best: re-writing history.

Happy uncle Cristoforo day.

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