Holidays and Insensitivity

Are we going too far with our concern for civility and sensitivity in our speech?  A Massachusetts elementary school is having trouble with the sensitivity of our fall holidays, as reported here by FoxNews.

Essentially, the problem seems to center on celebrating Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World, that sailor having committed “atrocities” and “annihilated” peoples; Hallowe’en’s connection to witchcraft, and Thanksgiving insensitivities “on the same lines” as Columbus Day celebrations.  FoxNews’ juxtaposition of the Columbus Day and Thanksgiving objections seems to imply that the latter is somehow connected to the former, but that could be a misunderstanding on my part.

Accordingly, I have emailed the following to Dr Anne Foley, Principal of the John F Kennedy School in Somerville, MA, hoping to gain clarity on the matter.

You are quoted by FoxNews as saying  “”For many of us and our students celebrating this particular person is an insult and a slight to the people he annihilated. On the same lines, we need to be careful around the Thanksgiving Day time as well.  …celebrating this particular person is an insult and a slight to the people he annihilated….”  Is this an accurate quote?  If not, please clarify.

On the assumption that this is an accurate quote, my questions are these:

What atrocities, exactly, did Christopher Columbus commit; whom did he annihilate?

Should we return to European religious persecution and murder all North American colonists and their descendants, escape from which was made possible by Columbus’ discovery?

What did the first Thanksgiving celebrate?

What does it celebrate today?

What is the connection among that celebration, the Mayflower (or the Margaret, or Juan de Onate, or Pedro Menéndez de Avilés),  and Christopher Columbus?

What history lessons will your teachers hold on these holidays?

Thank you for your kind attention to these questions.  I look forward to an informative and fruitful dialog.

In the same vein, I emailed the following to Dr Tony Pierantozzi, Superintendent of Schools for Somerville, MA, also seeking clarity.

You are cited by FoxNews in this way: “Superintendant Tony Pierantozzi told The Herald that Halloween is “problematic” because of connections to witchcraft.”

Is this an accurate paraphrase?  If not, please clarify.

On the assumption that this is an accurate quote, my questions are these:

What is the connection between Hallowe’en and witchcraft?

Who does this connection harm?  In what way?

Should we also ban All Saints’ Day (All Hallows) celebrations, that being the second day of the two-day celebration of All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints’ Day?

What about All Souls’ Day, which follows All Saints’ Day?

Thank you for your kind attention to these questions.  I look forward to an informative and fruitful dialog.

When I get responses, or when it becomes clear that no clarification will be forthcoming, I’ll post again on this.

Update: Corrected Dr Pierantozzi’s name.  He’s entitled to have it spelled right.

1 thought on “Holidays and Insensitivity

  1. Either or both may respond. But I wouldn’t hold my breath – they are bound to be inundated with queries (and possibly ducking as hard as they can).

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