Monday, October 11, 2010

America Rediscovered

Yesterday we attended a Columbus Day parade sponsored by the East Hanover, New Jersey Italian-American Club. Along with local resident, TLC's Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro, my lovely daughter-in-law Alicia was honored as "Woman of the Year"for her accomplishments as an Italian-American journalist and news anchor for News 12 New Jersey. I sometimes worry that the America I knew growing up is headed in the wrong direction. Living in a big city can give you a slanted view of the country's mind set, but after seeing this parade I'm resting a little easier knowing that the America I love is alive and well in places like East Hanover.

We sat in the bleachers under the reviewing stand near a bust of the parade's namesake, Christopher Columbus, watching as the marching bands and floats passed by. There were the honorees of course, the obligatory politicians campaigning shamelessly, several bands including the United States Marine Band, the town high school band, and a group of older men playing familiar Italian music on well-worn instruments. They reminded me so much of the elderly men who played the same kind of music in the street feasts of my youth, marching behind the statue of Our Lady of Loretto and her honor guard of old women dressed in black.

It was also nice to see young people marching behind a banner promoting the high school Italian Culture Club. We are all proud to be Americans, but our ethnic heritage must also be preserved for future generations. East Hanover is a town with many Italian-Americans and, unlike some modern-day critics who try to devalue his contributions, they are proud of Columbus for his discovery of America. The folks sitting with us in the bleachers were typical warm and friendly Italian-Americans, so naturally we were soon talking and joking with them as if they were long-lost relatives.

The parade route was lined with young and old alike, waving Italian and American flags as they honored Columbus and their Italian heritage. Among the marchers at the parade were were a contingent of Italian State Police who are invited every year to participate in this event. They stay as guests of local residents who welcome them into their homes and treat them like family. These Italian police officers appeared to be enjoying themselves thoroughly as they were cheered loudly by the partisan crowd on both sides of the street.

Being in that crowd as they respectfully stood for the Star Spangled Banner and the Italian National Anthem, and then watching them holler and clap for the uniquely American parade in honor of an Italian hero passing before them, gave me a warm feeling inside. Our country may change with the times, but every once in a while I am reminded that the values that made America great are still in the hearts of our people. I felt like I was stepping into a Norman Rockwell painting as I joined my fellow Americans of all ages in the bright afternoon sunshine of East Hanover, New Jersey. Here's a video clip of the parade for your enjoyment.


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Joseph Del Broccolo said...

I get so angry when the press and various meat heads knock themselves out, trying to prove that Columbus didn't discover America. A national holiday declared by president FDR, some states now call it American Heritage day or Discovery day, or give the credit to Leaf Ericson. When did those morons discover Leaf found America, when they decided they didn't like Italians?

Jim Pantaleno said...

Its not just Columbus but the contributions of all Western European heroes these sour-grapes critics are trying to devalue. Its a shame when people have to tear down the groups who achieved so much to build up other groups who did not. Viva Italia.

exCITer said...

Agreed! What I tell my kids is this: yes, lots of people were here before Columbus. If you believe the latest books, you couldn't put your foot down here without stepping on somebody "discovering" America.

But when Columbus discovered America, it _stayed_ discovered. He made it so we could come here and live.

exCITer said...

P.S. Columbus helped build the new world. Ericson and all the rest just landed here, drew some pictures, and went home.

Typical that schools would give them all the same credit. That's how they do it these days: Trying's as good as doing.