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Steve Lunetta: The end of days

Right Here Right Now

Posted: October 18, 2009 9:51 p.m.
Updated: October 19, 2009 4:55 a.m.
When we were living in Chicago, we had to get used to many unusual things that you don't typically see in California living. Snow was a big one. A huge body of water that wasn't an ocean (Lake Michigan). Friendly people who didn't shoot at you on the tollway.

There's another - tollways.

Aldi's and Jewel-Osco were where we shopped. Everyone rooted for the Cubs unless you were from the South Side and pulled for the Sox - the White Sox, that is.

The dirty Democratic machine was everywhere, fixing elections, making bad decisions and corrupting government. Oh, wait. That's not so different.

As strange as it may sound, one of the more peculiar traditions in Chicago was the celebration of Casimir Pulaski Day. When I first heard about it, I thought my friends were trying to trick me. Sure - Casimir Pulaski Day. Do we go out and hunt snipes?

To my amazement, Casimir Pulaski was a real person and a pretty amazing one at that. Pulaski was a Revolutionary War hero who is revered in the Polish community. At the Battle of Brandywine, he was actually credited with saving George Washington's life.

Having the second largest Polish community outside of Warsaw, it was only natural that Chicago would lobby the state of Illinois for official recognition of a Pulaski Day. They got it in 1977.

We here in California have created our own special days as well. John Muir Day, Cesar Chavez Day and Increase Union Members Pension Day (celebrated yearly by the Assembly) are all celebrated with gusto.

Last Monday, Harvey Milk Day was signed into existence by the Governator. Although state workers will not be given the day off, school districts will be encouraged to observe the day as one of "special significance."

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay politician to be elected to public office in 1977 when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Along with Mayor George Moscone, he was shot in 1978 by a fellow politician over a political dispute.

Milk's political accomplishment was heralded as a "first" and was probably elevated to "revered" status due to his assassination. But was it really that big an accomplishment?

Consider the political landscape at the time. During the late 1960s, gay men were flooding into San Francisco to live openly as gays in the Castro Street area. As the demographic changed with young families and blue-collar, Irish Catholic inhabitants leaving the city for the suburbs, gays found themselves expanding into a political vacuum.

The rise of gay political power in San Francisco corresponded fortuitously to Milk's development as a politician. He happened to be in the right place at the right time. Arguably, if it was not Milk it would have been another gay politician to rise to the task.

To celebrate this "accomplishment" is rather odd. Looking over Milk's career, he accomplished very little except for winning one election, writing a city gay rights ordinance and a dog excrement bill. But Sacramento disagrees and we now have Harvey Milk Day.

I find it remarkably curious that the current political forces in control of our great nation would also seek to minimize another day, that commemorating the accomplishments of Christopher Columbus.

What did Columbus do? He convinced the world that there was something else out there. He changed the hearts and minds of European royalty, raised the resources to explore the unexplored, went, and changed history.

He discovered the New World, colonized it and ushered in a new era of exploration and discovery. In archeological circles, things are described as "pre-Columbian" meaning something is dated before Columbus arrived. Time itself is marked by his accomplishment.

However, there are those in our society who point to the various atrocities that happened to Native American peoples in the New World and blame Columbus. This political correctness has reached such a crescendo that some no longer wish to celebrate this amazing achievement.

Isn't it interesting that our society now recognizes individuals whose accomplishments are small or inevitable (like Milk's) but we disdain real accomplishments like those of Columbus?

This seems to be linked to the whole self-esteem concept taught in schools - instead of teaching kids that self-esteem comes from excellence and accomplishment, they should derive self-esteem from nothing.

But why am I surprised? When the Nobel Peace Prize is given to an American president for giving speeches and not much else, it's clear that the world now values faux accomplishments to legitimate ones.

Steve Lunetta is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal. "Right About Now" runs Mondays in The Signal.


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