Monday, October 13, 2014
Sorry, Chris, Your Day Has Passed.
Columbus Day or Indigenous People's Day?
Ah, good old Christopher. He sailed off into the vast unknown looking for a shorter route to the Indies, not realizing that two huge continents barred his way. Though it is a falsity that people in his time still believed the earth was flat, no one can deny that it was a courageous thing to do. Whether he was driven by the hope of a path to riches, the spirit of exploration, or both, he deserves credit for bravery and for sort of accidentally bringing America to the attention of the "civilized" world. He was a product of the culture of his time and tended to see natives as not really human or deserving of respect. As a matter of fact, he was equally as cruel to his crew. Most of our most famous explorers treated the people they met along the way with one degree or another of brutality.
Having said all that, if you think I'm an apologist for Columbus, you're wrong. I believe the states and cities that are changing Columbus Day to Native American Day or Indigenous Peoples Day are doing the right thing. Sometimes, political correctness actually is correct and now that we've had our consciousnesses raised about the horrors that Columbus' travels brought to the people who already populated America, I just don't see how we can continue to revere him as we have in the past.
In the 1400's and beyond, Europeans believed that they were favored by God so if they "found" a land, they naturally owned it. The natives, being godless heathens, were beside the point. If those natives resented their treatment and fought back, well, then, they had to be eliminated and/or rounded up and kept in what we would call today, concentration camps (always placed in what the white people of the time considered the most valueless parts of the country, of course). Genocide? Well, hey, they brought it on themselves by not acknowledging and bowing before the superiority of their betters.
That's how we felt then but surely, we can recognize now how wrong we were, how immoral we were. Surely, we can take steps to correct those ugly beliefs and actions now. It's far too late for apologies, none of us alive today had any part of it anyway. But it isn't too late to honor Native Americans with their own day of celebration for the contributions they made to this land....long before Columbus and his crew boarded the the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.