Page 163 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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1492: The Double
Laikin Elkin
A lighthearted attitude
toward Chris-
toper Columbus prevailed in the United States prior to 1992, pos­
sibly because the great discoverer came wrapped in clouds of
patriotic glory and because the country was going through a pro­
foundly anti-patriotic period. Lack of seriousness about what used
to be called “the discovery of America” had already been signalled
by Congress in 1968 when that supreme legislative body cut the
holiday loose from the verifiable date of Columbus’ landfall, allow­
ing it to drift rudderless between the Friday or Monday closest to
the twelfth of October. Lack of seriousness continued through
President Reagan’s appointment of a Cuban-born Miami real es­
tate developer to head the quaindy-named Christopher Columbus
Quincentenary Jubilee Commission and the appointment of other
businessmen to the various state commissions—a clear sign that
the celebrations were to be commerce-driven. The appointees,
largely of Italian descent, seemed headed toward continuation of
the traditional Knights of Columbus parades which had always
marked the holiday as inconsequential. Even these dribbled to an
inglorious end when charges of corruption were levelled against
members of the CCQJC.
Further, “A funny thing happened on the way to the quincen-
tennial observation of America’s ‘discovery.’ Columbus got
mugged. This time the Indians were waiting for him.”Thus, Garry
Wills in his review of three anti-Great Discoverer books in the
New YorkReview ofBooks.1
By the time the review appeared, enthu­
siasm for the CCQJC was already beginning to dissolve under