Monday, October 13, 2014

Columbus Day?- Part I

                Some large U.S. cities are dispensing with “Columbus Day” celebrations and instituting  "Indigenous People’s Day” festivals in their place. Many government offices will be closed for the replacement holiday, parking meters won’t be enforced, mail not delivered, etc., in keeping with past observances of “Columbus Day”.

                Advocates of the change say it’s not just symbolic and is far more than a simple name change. They say it’s a big step for communities that have been pushing back against negative stereotypes and traditions for decades.

                I’m not sure how Columbus could be responsible for creating negative stereotypes of Native Americans, since he never set foot on “American”- or North American-  soil. He wasn’t even searching for America, as no one at the time even suspected the existence of  “America”. He was simply looking for a short sea route to the Indies. (He wasn’t trying to prove the world was round. He already knew that). Hence the term “Indians”.

                Yet the president of the Native American Community Development Institute stated that “It’s a validation and a correction of a historical wrong that has perpetuated a negative image of American Indian people, by celebrating somebody that has really been nothing but bad for  American Indian people and indigenous people across this continent.”

                Really?  Someone was going to discover “America” ( the land mass; the Founders actually created modern day  America, or the country now known as the United States of America, via the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights). The English, certainly, if Spain hadn’t. The Italians? The Chinese coming from the other way, perhaps? They invented gunpowder and were the first to use compasses, etc., and completed the Great Wall centuries before Columbus was born. Someone or some country or culture or people have “discovered” every place on Earth. Who do all the other peoples of the world “blame” for finding them?

                And wait a minute. Didn’t our “indigenous” folk come across a land bridge from Asia to get here? Hmmm. I bet bison and other native animals were pretty pissed-off about that!

                But if we want to blame white Europeans for discovering and occupying America, and most minorities (soon to be majorities) apparently do, why Columbus? I thought most modern day historians consider it  a virtual certainty that  Leif Erickson and his Viking hoards discovered America first and that they actually trod its soil.

                Columbus endured real poverty as a young man. He was pleasant, but dignified in manner. He had a mystic belief that God intended him to make great discoveries in order to spread Christianity. He was possessed of great moral and physical courage. He navigated by dead-reckoning, yet was one of the greatest seaman in history.

                In 1492 most people in the Old World had little hope for the future. Less than thirty years later a great renewal of human spirit had commenced. Columbus not only discovered the “New World”, for all that has meant to history and the promulgation of human freedom, his success encouraged other explorers and opened new windows to science and general knowledge. He had great tenacity, but one  idea, and that a radical one. As such he was regarded as a bore by many and hated by some. He shouldn’t be now.

                Columbus thought that Japan was about where the Virgin Islands are located. This was because he underestimated the size of the  globe and the width of the Atlantic Ocean.

                We should not underestimate the importance of his legacy.

               To few men in modern history does the world as we know it owe so great a debt as to Christopher Columbus.


                It is up to us to discover that truth.


No comments:

Post a Comment