Because some of Yale University's most politically correct students prevailed on New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, this Oct. 13 wasn't just Columbus Day throughout Connecticut. In New Haven it was also Indigenous People's Day, a protest against the traditional honoring of the Italian seafarer, who, in his less well known career as Spanish colonial governor in the Caribbean, was pretty nasty.
With all the trouble in the world, the Yalies might have found something a little more compelling to get agitated about. After all, while New Haven has many residents of Italian descent and is the headquarters of the great Catholic charitable order, the Knights of Columbus, whose clamor accomplished the federalization of the holiday in 1934, ethnic loyalty to Columbus faded away decades ago, and even the knights themselves now do little celebrating of their patron.
Besides, the celebration of "indigenous" people is in general as ridiculous as celebration of Columbus. For these days everyone in the country is indigenous, belonging to the place where he lives, except the illegal aliens cultivated by New Haven and other politically correct "sanctuary cities." And while they are often romanticized as noble savages, few aboriginal people -- a better term, signifying the earliest known inhabitants of a territory -- were much better than those who arrived later to compete for the land.
Connecticut's history is typical. The Indian tribe famously associated with the state, the Pequots, was no more "indigenous" to the area than other tribes, and its aggressiveness (its name is thought to have been an Algonquin word for "destroyers") prompted the other tribes to appeal to English settlers in Massachusetts to settle in Connecticut as potential allies. Eventually the Pequots indeed were wiped out by an alliance of those other tribes and the English settlers, the only remnant of the Pequots today being a gambling casino, a political contrivance arising from misplaced but cleverly exploited guilt.
Most Americans today likely would acknowledge and regret the often genocidal treatment of the Indian tribes as European settlement of the country expanded westward. Indeed, there would be far more justice in eliminating Columbus Day than in changing the racial name of the professional football team in Washington, D.C., which somehow has become an objective even dearer to political correctness.
But Columbus Day is a legal holiday for which state employees are paid to stay home contemplating their other extravagant fringe benefits, and repealing it would have to be negotiated with their unions. It's one thing to indulge a few politically correct Yalies with a mayoral proclamation, quite another to curtail the privileges of Connecticut's government class.
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President Obama and Governor Malloy are touting the usual pre-election decline in the heavily manipulated unemployment rate. The national and state rates are said to have fallen below 6 percent.
What the president and governor don't tout is that the labor-participation rate, the share of the adult population gainfully employed, has been falling steadily along with the unemployment rate -- to less than 63 percent, the lowest labor-participation rate in 37 years.
That is, unemployment is falling only because people are giving up on finding a job and are settling for life on government stipends like Food Stamps and disability pensions. Further, most of the gain in employment lately has involved workers 55 and older who have taken service jobs, many remaining in the workforce because they can't afford to retire, the Federal Reserve having driven interest rates down to zero, rescuing big banks only by destroying savers.
Inflation-adjusted wages have fallen for decades, signifying a long decline in living standards. Both major political parties share the blame for this but it's always the incumbents who lie most about it.
Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.