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October 3, 2014

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, - . . Page 2 POST-GAZETTE, OCTOBER 3, 2014 by Prof. Edmund Turiello A weekly column highlighting some of the more interesting aspects of our ancestry.., our lineage .... our roots. ATLAS, OTHER VERSIONS Stories about Atlas are told at least three times in tales from mythology. The first one identifies him as a son of the Titan Iapetus. Atlas supported the Titans in their war against the forces of Zeus. and of course we know that the Titans were defeated. As punishment, Atlas was forced to hold the heav- ens on his shoulders for all eternity. The second story is quite involved: It starts with three sisters called the Gorgons. They were awful beings, with hair and girdles of Snakes, and anyone who gazed upon them was immediately turned to stone. One sister, named' Medusa, was mortal, but the other two were im- mortal. Perseus, a Greek hero, was successful in a mission to cut off Medusa's head, and was bringing it back to his homeland in a leather bag. After traveling for a full day he came upon the realm of King Atlas. The king was a huge man, who possessed great wealth in herds and land. Most pre- cious to him was a beautiful garden which cont ained golden fruit, hanging from branches of gold. Perseus sought o~ly food and a place to rest for the night. Arias remembered an old proverb about being robbed of his golden apples, so he refused hospitality to the stranger. Greatly an- gered, Perseus then held up the Gorgon's head for Atlas to gaze upon, and this bulk of a king was immediately turned into stone. His hair and beard became wild for- ests, his arms became the sloping sides of a mountain, and his head became the summit. According to the pleasure of the gods, heav- ens, with all its stars was then caused to rest upon the shoulders of Atlas. The third story from my- thology concerning Atlas is centered around the cel- ebrated "Labors of Hercules." His ninth labor was to fetch the golden apples of the Hesperides. These golden apples grew in the sacred garden of Hera, wife of Zeus, and the Hesperides were three daughters of Arias, who were assigned to cultiVate and watch over the garden. The final item, setting the stage for this last act, was that o Hercules being informed not to enter the sacred garden, but to send Atlas, father of the Hesperides, instead. Hercules journeyed a great distance and finally came to the sacred gar- den of Hera. It was located near the spot where Atlas was holding the sky on his shoulders. Remembering the advice that had been given to him, Hercules offered to relieve Atlas of the weight tempo- rarily if he would gather the golden apples from the gar- den. Atlas agreed, fetched the apples, and returned shortly~ Hercules soon discovered that Atlas did not intend to resume his great burden, but instead, offered to deliver the apples himself. Having this ,great weight on his back prevented Hercules from re- sorting to any kind of force against Atlas. Through cau- tion and wit, Hercules pre- tended to agree to the pro- posal of Arias, but begged him to hold the sky just long enough to permit a pad to be placed upon his head. The gullible Atlas .laid the apples on the ground and took back the sky. Assoon as the w ei t was transferred, Hercules picked up the golden-fruit and started his journey home. NEXT WEEK: Helios and Sol by Joseph ,Boncore, Esquire R Publica by David TrumbuU Columbus and the Last Hope of Mankind October 3, 2014 "We do not read even of the discovery of this continent, with- out feeling something of a personal interest in the event; with- out being reminded how much it has affected our own fortunes and our own existence. It would be still more unnatural for us. therefore, than for others, to contemplate with unaffected minds that interesting, I may say that most touching and pathetic scene, when the great discoverer of America stood on the deck of his shattered bark, the shades of night falling on the sea. yet no man sleeping; tossed on the billows of an unknown ocean, yet the stronger billows of alternate hope and despair tossing his own troubled thoughts; extending forward his ha- rassed frame, straining westward his anxious and eager eyes. till Heaven at last granted him a moment of rapture and ec- stasy, in blessing his vision with the sight of the unknown world." Daniel Webster, First Bunker Hill Monument Oration, 1825 In Boston we are surrounded by familiar sights Old North Church, the Old State House, Old South Meeting House. and the other stops on the Freedom Trail that remind us of Boston's unique Revolutionary War history. At 239 years distance from 1775, we are nearly two-and-a- half centuries removed from the beginning of the Ameri- can War of Independence. In like manner, 1775 was a bit more than two-and-a-half centuries (283 years to be pre- cise) removed from Columbus' discovery of the New World. Independence and the Revolutionary War mark not the beginning, but the halfwaypoint in the history of European civilization in America. Inhis remarks, quoted above, Mr. Webster, on the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, traced the origins of the United States not to the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock (although he mentions them in the oration), nor to the ear- lier English settlement ofVirginia {not even mentioned by Webster), but to Christopher Columbus and his First "sight of the unknown world." Others came here earlier -- possibly the Vikings, maybe other Europeans, and certainly the American Indians who arrived most probably from Asia .by land-bridge to Alaska. But Webster -- and many of us concur -- begins our history ~Ig'th:Colunz/uts.: All" month" we celebrate Italian-American Heritage and we celebrate the brave and. persevering Ital- ian nav/gator who opened the way for immigrants from ev- ery nation to settle in this New World and create the United States that remains, to quote again from Webster's speech, "the last hope of mankind." This is a phrase that will be echoed by Abraham Lincoln in his December 1862 Annual Message to Congress ("the last best, hope of earth"} and Ronald Reagan in his January 1974 *We Will Be a City on a Hill" speech ("the last best hope of man on earth"}. God will- ing Amer/ca shall continue for many years as a beacon of liberty-. In September 2013, Aflac, a nationally known insur- ance company, filmed its mascot "the Aflac duck" walking around a New York City subway station during rush hour as part of a new television commercial. Did anyone ever see this com- mercial? Did it boost sales of Aflac's supplemental insur- ance? The answer to both questions is "no." The reason? Within min- utes of the footage appearing on various social media out- lets, the animal rights advo- cacy group, PETA issued a statement that "a subway station is no place for a duck ... we're hopeful that in the future Aflac will leave live ducks out of its publicity stunts and use its creative power to come up with a kinder way to grab the public's attention." When an Aflac spokesman was asked that, given the negative feedback, would the company think twice before taking?a farm animal into /the subway again, he re- plied, "Absolutelyl We didn't / mean to ruffle any feathers." FaUst forward one year to New ~rear's Eve 2014. Aflac unveils a new mobster- theme~television commer- cial thal has the Aflac duck kidnapped by mobsters and taken for a ride in their limo. One of the actors is that perennial character actor cure "gangster," Frank Vincent of The Godfather and "The Sopranos." The thugs pat down the duck; threaten it; and then shove it from the moving limo. The Sons of Italy Commis- sion for Social Justice* and other Italian anti-defama- tion groups contacted Aflac, charging that the commer- cial stereotypes Italian Americans. Our complaints were ignored as was our re- quest to remove the com- mercial from the air. Talk about "ruffling feathers!" Is Aflac more responsive to the treatment of a duck than to the sensibilities of an estimated 18 to 26 million people of Italian heritage? So it seems and unfortu- nately, Aflac doesn't stand alone. Thanks to the relent- less stereotyping of Italian Americans by the media, entertainment and advertis- ing, 74% of adult Americans believe that most Italian Americans have "some con- nection" to organized crime, according to a poll by the Princeton-based Response Analysis Corporation. Italian Americans have been battling the typecast- ing of them as boorish and/ or violent since the early 1970s and yet, as the Aflac commercial demonstrates, the stereotyping is as preva- lent as ever. Why is that? Part of the reason is that as European Americans, Italian Americans are con- sidered members of the pro- tected white majority. As such, it is assumed that we do not suffer prejudice or dis- crimination in housing, employment, and education. No discrimination? Then no sympathy when we protest about commercials like Aflac's or television shows like "The Sopranos." "You've made it," is the typical response. "What are you complaining about? It's only a movie." They have a point. We have made it. Italian Ameri- cans are one of the nation's biggest success stories. More than a century ago, we came here with nothing, to dig the ditches, build the railroads, highways and sky- scrapers, sew in sweatshops and do all the other menial jobs that the more estab- lished Americans turned down. We didn't speak the lan- guage, we often couldn't read or write and we knew noth- (Continued on Page 14) Fully Insured Lic #017936 Heating & Air Conditioning Sales, Service & Installation Ken Shallow 617.593.6211 f Boston Harborside Home Joseph A. Langone 580 Commercial St. Boston, MA 02109 617-536-4110 Augustave M. Sabia, Jr. Trevor Slauenwhite Frederick J. Wobrock Dino C. Manca Courtney A. Fitzgibbons A Service Family Affiliate of AFFS/Service Corporation International 206 Winter St., Fail'River, MA 02720 Telephone 508-676-2454 J