In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn't march in the
Columbus Day parade because its sponsors made him an offer he could easily
refuse: They actually went to court to compel Bloomberg to march -- but
without two actors from HBO's "The Sopranos," whom Bloomberg had invited.
The parade organizers didn't want to include figures that promote
Italian-mob stereotypes. The court -- no surprise -- refused to make
Bloomberg march. So, Bloomberg didn't join the parade. Instead, he lunched
with "The Sopranos" actors Lorraine Bracco and Dominic Chianese.
In San Francisco, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani went to
the Fior d'Italia restaurant in North Beach to campaign for GOP
gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon. Before Giuliani arrived, proprietor Bob
Larive noted that while San Francisco celebrates "Italian Heritage Day," at
the Fior d'Italia it's still Columbus Day. Red, white and green balloons
festooned the politicians' podium.
Giuliani said he would have done what Bloomberg did.
"'The Sopranos'' flap is unnecessary," said New York's
no-nonsense former mayor, as he signed copies of his new book, "Leadership."
Of course, Giuliani said he is "intensely proud" to be an
Italian American. He also noted that there happen to be some Italian
Americans who are members of the mob. "So I don't know why Italian American
groups want to get so insulted about this," said Giuliani. "So what?"
Or, in a word: Fuggedaboutit.
Not likely. Being offended is as American as apple pie these
Some Native American groups are offended by the celebration of
They don't want to celebrate the legacy of European hegemony.
Some Italian Americans, in turn, are offended by attempts to
retool or eliminate Columbus Day. In fact, there was even a "Sopranos"
episode on the flap.
Now the Columbus Citizens Foundation, which sponsors the New
York Columbus Day parade, doesn't want certain Italian American actors who
take prominent mob roles -- which sounds like every great Italian-American
actor -- in its parade.
It makes you wonder what history books will say about America
2002. For all the faults of American pioneers, they were resilient and
courageous, if sometimes hard. Modern Americans are more sensitive -- but
often to the point of being humorless and too easily offended.
I asked Giuliani if, in light of political correctness, he
thought Americans would celebrate Columbus Day in 100 years.
Yes, he said. "I believe Christopher Columbus is a very
important historical figure. Obviously, a man of his time. And, like
America, nobody's perfect. But the reality is that he had great
achievements. He was a visionary. "
Well said. But that same Columbus offends some Americans. In
fact, history offends them. The past offends them.
"I think everybody has too much time on their hands," shrugged
Fior d'Italia's Larive.
Too true. There was a day when Americans protested blatant
discrimination. Now activists go after any vestige of a stereotype, as if it
is tantamount to discrimination. There's no sense of proportion. And no
sense of laissez-faire.
If you don't like "The Sopranos' " actors on parade, Bloomberg
had said earlier in the controversy, don't wave.
If you don't like "The Sopranos" because you think it defames
Italian Americans, don't watch.
But tuning out isn't good enough anymore. Sensitive Americans
rain on every parade.