Over at Arlee Bird's Tossing It Out, there's some talk about Columbus Day and the modern efforts to downplay his accomplishments in the interests of establishing a replacement Indigenous Peoples Day. As we all know, Christopher Columbus accidentally discovered the New World (it's erroneous, however, to believe people in 1492, much less Columbus himself, thought the world was flat or just plain ended somewhere). Yeah, and sure, Viking and Chinese explorers got there first, but with far less publicity. And the whole history of a continent changed forever.
The thing is, it's a bit strange for Americans to complain about what Columbus did. It's strange, because if he, or someone else, hadn't done it, there wouldn't be any Americans to complain about it. Everyone you know, unless you're reading this on a reservation (generally speaking), is directly descended from the efforts begun with Columbus. That's just a fact of life.
I despise what white settlers did to tribes living on their own land, across the whole history of exploration into the Americas, not so much the settlers themselves, but everyone who made it so easy for them to take and take and take, and in the meantime make it seem like the people they were taking all this land from were the bad guys. Because no, they weren't. I despise that not only did we take and take and take, but we tried our very best to eradicate, or merely severely marginalize, these tribes, right up to the current day. As I indicated in a previous post, no one argues Red Lives Matter, and that's because they don't live in the all-important cities where everything of note happens, at least as far as the media is concerned. Shailene Woodley, the Divergent series actress, was recently arrested protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. This is merely the most recent in a long series of cultural battles that have nothing to do with buzz topics like gun control or terrorism, but have nonetheless been at the forefront of American life for centuries.
And yet, none of it means anything, and still we have people who otherwise claim Columbus Day should be a thing of the past. Listen, I think every sports team with a Native American theme should rename itself. Lately I've been referring to the team that just beat the Red Sox in the playoffs as Francona's Cleveland because I don't want to call them anything else. These were all teams that were named early in the last century, when we'd finally "won the war" against the tribes that had the nerve to exist and demand any modicum of rights and dignity.
It's really about American self-esteem, American self-loathing, our collective inability to face the ugly truths about our past, not to mention our present. So we invent distractions and allow ourselves to be fooled by straw arguments, when any idiot who gave any of it more than a second's thought could see how ridiculous it all is. We can't even have Thanksgiving without people saying it can't possibly represent even the suggestion that anyone could get along back then, much less now. It makes me far more ashamed to be an America to think of this than how terrible this election season has been. But it's all related; we've never tried to work it out, just bury it.
Except, the past is prologue. We always seem to forget that, don't we?