And now, PC parades

Posted: Oct 16, 2002 12:00 AM
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 days. Some Native American groups are offended by the celebration of Columbus Day. 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.