I have to give credit to those who continue to try to sanitize and rewrite our history by removing statues, memorials and mascots for their determination.
I have noticed the Philadelphia Mural Arts program is continuing to solicit ideas on where to place the Frank Rizzo statue. My translation is they want to know where to toss it on the dustbin of history. On a seemingly daily basis, we hear that everyday words or expressions are offensive to a particular person or group.
The latest is the claim that the expression “God bless you” is offensive to those who are not Christians, are non-believers and, according to guide written by the librarians at Simmons College in Boston, is a microaggression toward Muslims. Maybe the remedy is to take our lead from Seinfeld and when someone sneezes, we should say “You’re so good looking.”
This urge to strike back at history and expunge all things that are no longer politically correct hit a sweet spot when it comes to mascots. The latest case involves the crusading knight who was the mascot of the College of the Holy Cross. For some time, a group of the usual suspects has been pushing the university to remove the knight tied to their nickname the Crusaders. In February, the college said it would not change its mascot, but earlier this month, the administration announced that the name would stay and the mascot would go.
Such a change clearly revolves around fears that the knight represented the violence of the Crusades and played into charges of Islamophobia.
In addition to the charges of current-day Islamophobia, this mascot debate plays into the history of the Crusades. Of course, a fair reading of history acknowledges that the Crusades were both a defensive measure mounted against Muslim attacks and an enterprise in which Christian forces also massacred Muslims when they recaptured cities such as Jerusalem.
Of course, as these mascots are being retired, Christians are being persecuted and murdered across the Middle East, often by people claiming to do these acts in the name of Islam.
Closer to home, the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program chipped in the expunging of “non-inclusive” names and destinations by trying to scrub the Italian Market neighborhood label from its official mindset in a news release about what to do with the Frank Rizzo mural in South Philly. Victor Fiorillo reports at www.PhillyMag.com that their release said, “While the mural sits in the Bella Vista community, it also exists in an area that supports the 9th Street Market (formerly known as the Italian Market), which is home to shoppers from many neighborhoods and tourists alike.”
He reports that the organization later amended its release, saying, “We’ve updated the language in our survey to say ‘also known as the Italian Market,’ given that people throughout the city may refer to the area in one way or the other.”
Of course, this area has seen demographic changes but does it really offend people who are not Italian enough to remove its longstanding name? Will Chinatown soon be offensive to someone? Are we destined to allow developers and sanitizing civic do-gooder groups to make Philadelphia ever blander and more politically correct?
This skirmish over Rizzo and his statue, mural and neighborhood tells me we are going about this sensitivity all wrong. We need to see Philadelphia more like a hip contemporary homeowner’s association. We need to centralize our planning to a board that can go block by block to root out all remnants of traditional Philadelphia.
Think of them as “crusaders” for the new more progressive Philadelphia. Of course, even though they’ll be sacking our traditions such as the Mummers Parade and others, we’ll need a new word to describe them given the crusader baggage.
This renaming effort Fiorillo has written about doesn’t rise to the level of the school mascot debates, but it shows on matters large and somewhat smaller that we have pockets of people who, under the banner of being inclusive, are arbitrarily excluding anything that does not fit their tastes.
Respecting traditions and neighborhoods and history is being inclusive. Letting an unelected board casually throw away our local color and sense of place is exclusive and silly.
Teacher-turned-talk show host Dom Giordano is heard 9 a.m. to noon weekdays on WPHT (1210-AM). Contact him at www.domgiordano.com. Twitter: @DomShow1210