Mark Palermo

Columbus Day? or Renaissance Day?

He Was Our S.O.B.
Long Ago Saturday Nights at the Circle 9
The Dark Side of Vaccinations
Wine: Where Ignorance and Pretension Find their Loudest Voice
A 1976 Journey in Search of Self
The Machinery of Mass Dreams
The Outlaw Georgie Bush
Sex Offender Registries Out of Control
Extreme Makeover for Airheads
The Fault Lies not in the Stars, but in Ourselves
Reconsidering George Carlin
If You Think Liberals Are Jerks...
She Couldn't Do Her Chores
Remembering Viktor Frankl
One Day on the Farm-1977
A Fresh Look at Meat
How the Real World Works: A Lesson
30 Bucks for the Human Touch
1929 All Over Again
An Old Man's War, A Young Man's Fight
More Things in Heaven and Earth...
Our Dumbed-down Public Discourse
Bread, But No Roses
Earth's the Right Place for Love
Read This Before Enlisting
Poison Is Good for You: The Fluoridation Scam
Ron Paul:He Makes Too Much Sense
War Is a Racket
Brazil's National Orgasm Day
Calling all Liberals!
Why I Don't Get Flu Shots
What is Community?
Haverhillicus Homocrisicum
If You Wanna Be a Junkie, Why?
Do We Know His Family?
Scam: Youth Sports
A Subsidy for the Human Touch?
How Not to Be Boring
If the Bread and Roses Strike Were NOW
America's Problem with the Body
Columbus Day? or Renaissance Day?
Depleted Uranium Weapons
Mitt Romney: A Clintonian Republican
A Checklist for Conservatives
On Torture and Torturers
Pimp of the Nation
Romney is a Jerk
Hypocrisy and its Champions
The Dumb Society
The Men's Taverns of Yesteryear
On Dittoheads!
Let China Sleep
2004 McDebates
Animal Rights Page
US Wealth Distribution Chart
Public Grief, Private Lives





I watched the recent PBS special on the artist, Andy Warhol and I still can’t figure out something. He was very famous. Everybody knew who Andy Warhol was-even people in nursing homes and kids in elementary school. One commentator called him America’s most important 20th century artist. Warhol, who died in 1987, once said of fame, “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” But why was Warhol famous?


He was a talented graphic artist in the 1950’s, but so were many others. He was an avant-garde homosexual living and working in New York’s Lower East side, but that wasn’t unusual.  He was friend of the rich and famous- which didn’t hurt. And his artistic legacy? Today he is associated with graphic illustrations of Campbell’s soup cans, and images of Marilyn Monroe. I can’t think of anybody who has achieved so much fame without a clear reason why. Except for one other person.


There is Madonna, whose claim to fame is nebulous.  I can already hear the protests of my students in defense of Madonna. “You don’t understand…Madonna is a cultural icon!”   OK, she’s a cultural icon, like Andy Warhol. But let’s see. What has she actually done? She had a couple of hit records in the early 80’s, “Material Girl” and “Like a Virgin.” And a campy, hyped book of pornographic pictures of herself in 1992, titled, appropriately enough, ”Sex,” which some say cut new ground in the sexual revolution. (That’s funny, I thought all the available ground had already been cut. Is there more?) She played Evita in a turgid, overblown musical. Her record albums have sold well world-wide, but I have never met anyone who can tell me the names of more than two of her songs. Princeton, Harvard, Rutgers and UCLA have offered credit courses that analyze Madonna as a postmodern myth. I wonder if the instructors can tell me- in 50 words or less- why she’s famous.



Speaking of cultural myths, October 9 is Columbus Day. It is my least favorite holiday. To enjoy this day, you have to lower your consciousness and have an unnatural capacity for myopia and self-deception. My encyclopedia calls it “a day commemorating Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America.” That’s the official story, of course. Innocent primary school children who haven’t yet internalized the contradictions of the adult world will be asking their parents and teachers how Columbus “discovered” America if there were already people here. The answer of course, if parents and teachers value truth, is that the people who were already here “didn’t count” as real people. Which automatically generates the next question: why not?


Columbus Day is a time of celebration, especially for Italian-Americans. Some would argue that a day to feel pride in one’s heritage does no harm, and I agree. But is Columbus an appropriate exemplar of the magnificence of Italy- the home of the Renaissance? Historian Samuel Eliot Morrison wrote, "The policy and acts of Columbus for which he alone was responsible began the depopulation of the terrestrial paradise that was Hispaniola in 1492…one third were killed off between 1494 and 1496." That one third amounted to about 5 million people, which is a Holocaust. With so many other Italians worthy of veneration, why do we celebrate the psychopathic Columbus? Because we always have. And that’s a lousy reason. For me, it’s like celebrating Al Capone or Albert Desalvo, the Boston Strangler. As long as we call it Columbus Day and not Michaelangelo Day or Galileo Day or Rennaisance Day, it should be a day of mourning and prayer in memory of the millions of innocents who were murdered, tortured and enslaved by his hand.


September 27, 2006