Leave Columbus Day alone!

Please drop the calendar and just walk away! Italians have so little to be proud of as it is. They didn’t even manage to invent pasta or pizza which would’ve made enduring their culture almost bearable. Their entire legacy consists of a film director who was likely on LSD, a reality show in New Jersey, crime families, and a marvelous capacity for entire armies to surrender simultaneously.

But before we truly get into “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” and before you start thinking I just took a right turn to the dark side, please let me issue several stipulations first.

We’ll start with, as Chris Rock so blithely put it is, “Nobody got it worse than the American Indian.” To prove his hypothesis, he adds, “Shit! I have seen a polar bear riding a fuckin’ tricycle in my lifetime, but I have never seen an American Indian family just chilling out at Red Lobster.”

Then, I will continue to challenge my anti-immigration conservative friends to display the depth of their righteous border wall indignation by immediately turning their property over to the Pottawatomie nation. Because unless your name sounds something like “Running Deer,” by any number of treaties, every last Illinoisan is an illegal immigrant.

columbusSo as you might imagine, I’m wholly behind “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” even though the thought originated in that strange land know as Seattle where the people are so polite they actually cause traffic accidents.

Lest any of you think we’ve come a long way on the Native American issue, we still have an NFL team named the “Redskins.” But that doesn’t mean, in order to acknowledge those native to this continent, we have to summarily dispense with Columbus Day either.

In the pantheon of annual holidays, Columbus Day is about as minor as it gets. Unless you’re a student, banker or government worker, you probably don’t even note its passage. Only that Casimir Pulaski celebration falls lower on the day off scale because Chicago threw that one in just to placate the Poles who can be a really rowdy bunch. Have you ever seen them dance to Polka music?

Yes! Yes! Yes! I understand that when Chris and his cohorts descended upon these balmy shores it did not bode well for Native Americans. In fact, it was probably the single most devastating event in their long and storied history.

But to put today’s template on something that happened over 500 years ago is patently unfair.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Europeans had no idea what caused the spread of disease and that inevitable intercontinental meeting would’ve been disastrous regardless of the time or place. Native Americans had no resistance to smallpox which wiped them out at a faster pace than any gun totin’ white folks could ever hope to achieve on their best day.

And speaking of gun toting white folks, for better or worse, colonization was the norm back then and to take our ancestors to task for engaging in that eminently acceptable behavior is a lot like asking a toddler to explain War and Peace. He knows it’s a book, but that’s about as far as you’re gonna get.

That said, considering our current circumstances, it is truly scary to think that Western Civilization actually has evolved since then.

So when I think about the day that carries our “discoverer’s” name, my thoughts turn to the spirit of exploration, persistence, and the willingness to take a risk based on a reasonable hunch. As it turned out, the world was not flat.

Of course, it didn’t turn out too well for those who were already here, which is why I like the idea of celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day too, just not at the expense of most famous Italian. It certainly wouldn’t hurt any of us to remember Native American contributions, there’s still room for Caucasian cultural improvement, and unintended consequences can have far more far reaching implications than the best of our misguided intentions.

So let’s leave Columbus Day alone if for no other reason than it will keep the Italians from complaining any more than they already do. Let’s honor the best intentions of our ancestors while duly noting that we’ve made some mistakes along the way.

11 thoughts on “Leave Columbus Day alone!

  1. . . SO . . Seeing Columbus was a Genocidal Mass Murderer and you want to keep “Columbus Day” . . We should also have an Adolf Hitler (and we should celebrate it the same day the Vatican use to, his birthday) day, Mao Tse-tung day, Joseph Stalin Day, Pol Pot Day and to double up on the ‘ Indigenous People’ George Armstrong Custer Day . . . Americans do love Genocidal Mass Murderers . . .

  2. Jeff, I encourage you to read about Christopher Columbus; we have his diary & log books for 1st hand accounting of his actions. In short, he stole, murdered, & enslaved people. He was not a nice man, even taken in context of his times.

    • Todd, I do get that, but how is that different from so many of our other national heroes? And as far as Mr. Koko goes, when it comes to genocide, Chris Columbus certainly ain’t no Stalin or Hitler.

      Again, I’m saying we should honor the traits that led to anyone taking such a huge risk and as that great philosopher Bruce Springsteen once said, “Trust the art and not the artist.”

      • We have 3 National holidays to honor specific individuals: Presidents Day, Martin Luther King Day, & Columbus Day. I think there’s quite a bit of difference between them & Columbus.

        “Honor the traits that led to taking risk”. Washington, Lincoln & MLK fought for liberty & freedom at great personal sacrifice. Columbus took risks to exploit, steal, & enslave for personal wealth & power.

        When you tell a 7 year old that Columbus is a hero, you are saying that getting Wealth & Power is worth great risk & worth hurting others. That’s a bad lesson and insulting to Indigenous peoples.

      • Todd, I get what you’re trying to say, but I’ve never called Columbus a hero, no one gets that day off anyway, and I talked about celebrating the spirit of exploration, not actually honoring the man.

        And Columbus wasn’t looking to exploit native peoples, he was looking for a shorter route to Asia. That said, when the opportunity presented itself… So yes! Columbus was a dick and, but most of our heroes are tragically flawed.

        The fact that he was troubled by it did not stop George Washington from having slaves. Not only did Jefferson have slaves, but he slept with them. Martin Luther King was a womanizer!

        Whatever Columbus may have done, he did do something that no one else (since the Vikings perhaps) had done. And just like Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs, most folks don’t consider the man he was when considering that accomplishment.

        Again! Trust the art and not the artist!

  3. To quote Rodney King, can’t we all just get along? Pulaski Day to most of us is a joke; we can’t remember when it is. BUT to the Polish-Americans it’s honoring a great American hero. And when we created that day, we didn’t take it away from someone else. Creating an Indigenous American Day is a no brainer, and long overdue (but let’s remember we ALL actually come from Africa if we go far enough back in the family tree). But creating it didn’t require taking away somebody else’s day. Arguments could be made for eliminating all of our national holidays (not that I personally buy those arguments). I agree w/ you about Lincoln, and he’s one of my heroes. But to a lot of people back then, he was a tyrannical despot who didn’t hesitate to ignore the constitution when it suited his purposes. Washington did indeed fight at personal sacrifice — then submitted an expense account to soften the blow of the sacrifice. MLK was a great man, sacrificed his life in the name of great ideas, but wasn’t exactly a saint. What other days could we pick? March 17? No, that doesn’t work. Isn’t there a sacred day when something GOOD happened for the indigenous tribes? Something that would create a day of celebration for them rather than a day of mourning?

  4. Jeff, We could celebrate Sitting Bull’s victory at Little Big Horn!

    • A lot of people may not have liked the outcome, but you gotta admit they kicked ass and took names that day!

  5. BTW I get Columbus Day off, but I’d rather get St. Patrick’s Day. Much more fun holiday.

  6. Boy, Jeff ! You really “stepped in it” THIS time !

    I haven’t seen this much comment on your site since Kevin Burns ran for County Chairman !

    But, Columbus set the stage for modern business; He left a continent he knew, for India, which he never got to, landed in a place he never intended, didn’t know where he was when he got there, claimed land he didn’t own for a country he wasn’t a citizen of, and did it all on borrowed money !

    And he became famous for doing so !

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