Dance With Who Brung Ya

We’re observing Columbus Day with doughy, deep-fried donuts dusted with powdered sugar.

It’s hard to hate old Christopher when M makes zeppole.

But we are supposed to hate him, we’re told. We’re told, I say! We’re told he to do so because he was a bad man — he was a very bad man. The history books were wrong, we’re ordered to believe by a whole ‘nother set of history books.

[This puts me in mind of an editor I once worked for, who announced one day that some kerfuffle about President Clinton’s coiffure was (like the hair itself, actually) overblown. The media had got it wrong …

And how did we know the media had got it wrong? She’d read it in the newspaper.

This was a working journalist, you see.]

Which only shows to go ya not that we ought to believe no one, but that, roughly speaking, we can evade even more difficult situations by believing everyone. Or at least letting them believe it.

This is how mature, well-adjusted people manage being so. They have not only learned to say “no” when asked to speak at the Southeast Amalgamated French Bakers Union of South Dakota (Reorganized), they have mastered the art of “Uh huh” and “You don’t say!” when they want more than all the zeppole in the world for the other person to stop saying it.

In other words, when they say, “You don’t say!” more likely than pleased they are pleading. It’s a request. But it coats the rocky path ahead somewhat and, yes, sometimes this makes us to fall onto the rocks, most of the time it helps us glide right over them like angels on cake.

And this is somewhat how I feel when reading revisionist accounts of Christopher Columbus.

Just somewhat because, yes, most of the time more truth is better: it may not save, or even seem to change a thing, but generally, it’s better. So knowing more about the guy, in this case some potentially really hard stuff, well, put me down for one order of knowing.

Then again if it makes one into a supercilious prig, it might not be a wholly good idea. Power corrupts but so do facts. Instead of submitting to them, we marshal them. Instead of sanity and humility as we face our monumental — and quite recent — ignorance, we become arrogant and bloodthirsty.

We are like children tacking between the lemonade stand and the later years where it looks like lemons all the way down, announcing at dinner and every other opportunity the many new disconnected facts we just learned … which is to say uncritically accepted.

It may be necessary, and generally better, but it ain’t pretty.

If I were to say you must now stop regarding funnel cakes as authentic American fair food and must now — right now — think of them as a failed effort at Italian fair food, it would be a fair piece to hope you’ll say, “Uh huh” and “You don’t say!”

And zeppole were a way for people to celebrate their heritage, which is a good thing; and come together in parades and carny games, which is a good thing; and eat dusted donuts, which is a good thing. And it still is, along with being a way to remember, which is one of the best things of all.

Saying Columbus was a sonofabitch should surprise no one. We all are. It’s biblical, historical, and daily empirical. And the problem is what happens when we change our mind, when we go with the new stuff.

Now we hate him uncritically.

Still a lie and priggish besides.

It’s all a big scam, you know. A conspiracy. The combines/conglomerates/conmen are trying to tell us what to think/say/do. Fight the power! Stick it to the Man.

Says the New Man.

The answer may be to believe all of them, which is partly to say none of them, but more to say find the thing to believe that encompasses all and none, and transcends both, and both of them.

When it’s lemons all the way down, this is actually the way get back to the lemonade stand. It’s not about believing everything or nothing, even if, like the middle stage of our uncritical fact acceptance, necessary.

And it’s not the cynical Cool or trite “Whatever!”

Some say it’s out there.

Some say ‘t isn’t.

We say “Uh huh” and “You don’t say!”

And remember, with an order of zeppole.

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