Featured Post

Rename Columbus Day for All Explorers

Rename Columbus Day for All Explorers

Increasingly in recent years, Columbus Day has been in the crosshairs of many Americans seeking to account for its namesake’s brutal treatment of America’s indigenous peoples. As the debate over Confederate memorials and place names spreads to other figures in American history whose behavior towards blacks and American Indians were unambiguously immoral, Christopher Columbus has become a prime target.

But while Columbus may have been an inhumane monster by today’s standards, the majority of his contemporaries in their Age of Exploration were no better. Vasco De Gama and Juan Ponce De Leon each committed their share of atrocities. The Spanish (Cortez, Pizarro, Coronado) and Portuguese (Almeida, Albuquerque) conquistadors who immediately succeeded them were even worse. Ferdinand Magellan and John Cabot appeared to be the best of a bad bunch, but effectively the entire era was characterized by avaricious, bloodthirsty adventurers who cared little for human dignity when profit and glory were at stake. Columbus is less problematic than the Age of Exploration more broadly speaking.

But even casting aside his moral failings, is Columbus worth venerating?

What’s in a Holiday?

We create and observe national holidays not to celebrate individuals, but rather virtues considered nationally important. Labor Day, Veterans Day, and Memorial Day are all relatively self-explanatory. Thanksgiving came to embody communitarian values, and Christmas, to the extent its secularization hasn’t been overly commercialized, the values of charity and peace for mankind. Independence Day celebrates nationhood and the values espoused by our Declaration of Independence.

George Washington’s Birthday is informally recognized as Presidents Day, and broadly venerates the executive leadership that has steered our country through challenging and occasionally existential moments. Martin Luther King Day is less a celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. King than an ode to the entire Civil Rights Movement, of which he was a unifying and (today) non-controversial leader. So if equality for all Americans is the virtue espoused by that holiday, then what purpose does Columbus serve?

We shouldn’t go down the road of renaming every street, school, and city to conform with modern values, but we should ensure our national holidays maintain modern relevance. Simply put, Christopher Columbus has lost his. He did not in fact discover our continent, which we’ve known definitively for decades. Elementary school kids learn his rhyme “In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety-Two…,” but his significance in those lessons is more central to European history than anything intrinsically American. He does represent part of the origin story in our national narrative, but future explorers arguably contributed more to our national identity.

Exploration in America

The Age of Exploration was deeply consequential for the Americas, not only because the Age of Conquest immediately ensued, sending European colonizers and African slaves across the Atlantic for the first time. It also fundamentally changed the way Europeans viewed themselves and the world around them. These expeditions facilitated scientific discovery, introduced new crops, flooded Europe with gold, and gave the Catholic Church a new outward-looking purpose amidst a tumultuous Reformation.

However, subsequent periods of exploration and discovery were far more impactful in terms of building the American narrative and shaping our national psyche. French and English explorers of the 17th and 18th  centuries enabled the establishment and growth of early colonies. American frontiersmen of the 18th and 19th century, the most famous of whom were Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, paved the way for westward expansion. Following our independence from Britain, Americans increasingly came to believe the entire New World was ours for the conquering, and those exploring our land and waterways played no small part. For better or worse, the Monroe Doctrine, Manifest Destiny, and Roosevelt Corollary emerged from this mindset. It also shaped our literature and art, settlement patterns, and domestic politics through modernity (and post-modernity).

Navigation of the skies in the early 20th Century not only stimulated invention, but narrowed the distance between nations and communities. Likewise, human spaceflight forced us to reconsider our place in the cosmos, forged international cooperation, and helped build the modern environmental movement. Human discovery has always pushed our nation forward, if unevenly and sometimes with awful consequences, but that desire to explore and tame the unknown remains a virtue worth celebrating and instilling in all Americans.

Explorers’ Day

An expansion of Columbus Day to encompass other adventurers of all American epochs would be most fitting, and allow today’s far more diverse American citizenry to embrace a common thread in our shared history. So why not rename it Explorers Day, simultaneously celebrating entrepreneurship and discovery, and encompassing all intrepid adventurers, of land, sea, air, and space?

The opening of the American continents to European settlement was a watershed moment in human history, but why not also recognize those who mapped our frontiers, navigated our rivers, conquered our skies, and brought us ever closer to stars? These figures are more relevant to all Americans because they shaped the places we live, the ways we travel, and the scientific discoveries that continue to define our world. So let’s bring Lewis and Clark into the holiday. And Sacagawea. Robert de la Salle and Henry Hudson. Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. The Mercury 7, Apollo 11, and Sally Ride. We’ve seen more than a dozen African-Americans and more than 40 American women complete spaceflights, to say nothing of the women, immigrants, and peoples of color who were American explorers of those previous eras.

We want today’s and tomorrow’s kids to embrace that same adventurous spirit, ensuring Americans remain leaders in discovery at the depths of Earth’s oceans and beyond its atmosphere. Christopher Columbus doesn’t hold that relevance anymore, and maybe he never did. But rather than focus on his flaws, let’s remember why we celebrated him in the first place, and rename the holiday to better capture that virtue.

Nathaniel W Horadam
Home Page Twitter 

My name is Nathaniel Horadam – Native Texan, Vandy alum, former Accenture management consultant, shameless Atlanta booster, and current transportation planning graduate student at Georgia Tech.

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
Share

93 thoughts on “Rename Columbus Day for All Explorers

  1. So if equality for all Americans is the virtue espoused by that holiday, then what purpose does Columbus serve?

    I’m totally fine with this idea but it’s worth remembering some of the history behind the holiday. American Catholics and particularly those of Italian descent wanted an official celebration of a Catholic hero. We can of course debate whether or not he in particular is now (or ever was) worthy of veneration but the day is very much part of America’s story of integration and assimilation.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  2. Curiously, for completely opposite reasons, October 12, named the day of Hispanic Culture (Día de la Hispanidad) is, since the restoration of democracy, the National Holiday of Spain.

    A country encompassing different national groups, with a violent history of Civil Wars galore (the 1936-39 one was just the last of many), and a very conflicted view or religion, needed the least offensive day as a National Holiday, and settled for the date when Spanish civilization (for good or ill, but probably mostly for good) started to expand across the world. (*)

    (*) Spanish is, after Mandarin, the second most expanded native language in the world, though English, the third, is the most spoken, counting ESL speakers

      Quote  Link

    Report

  3. Why not?

    Because the American Indians / Native Americans I know have decided to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on this day, instead, and I think that the US’s indigenous peoples need my support more than the already-celebrated, often colonially vicious, explorers do.

    And indeed, I want to celebrate them more. I feel really *conflicted* about colonialism, I don’t feel conflicted about any extant indigenous peoples.

    More trivially, selfishly, tribally, I already have two holidays to celebrate today – Canadian Thanksgiving being the other one – so I don’t want a third.

    Though if you changed it to Astronauts’ Day, full stop, or Perhaps the Stars Day, you’d probably be able to sway me.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • I find it irritating that Indigenous People just get the castoff Columbus Day. I would rather they got their own day entirely removed from Columbus and having nothing to do with him. It seems really white privilege-y to be all like “ok, well, I guess you guys can have this one as long as I still get the day off”. um, thanks? thanks for allowing us to have your day, I guess?

      But I would like to see the number of holidays increased dramatically anyway. Like two or three of them a month. As a multicultural nation we should all get each other’s holidays off work. It would go a long way towards goodwill towards all and cultural unity if we treated everyone’s special days as special days instead of weirdnesses that only some people celebrate.

      I liked this piece and I unapologetically like the concept. Even though some explorers were monstrous people, the spirit of exploration is a pretty fundamental part of the American character and of course the indigenous people were explorers themselves. Thanks for writing it, Nathaniel!

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • “It seems really white privilege-y to be all like “ok, well, I guess you guys can have this one as long as I still get the day off”. um, thanks? thanks for allowing us to have your day, I guess?”

        This would be the case were the people pushing to reclaim and rename the day not themselves Native Americans. As it is, they seem to want that day back, so it would seem fairly white-privilege-y to me to tell them they are asking for the wrong one…

          Quote  Link

        Report

  4. I think renaming it is a fine idea, as long as we understand, recognize and accept that some people will refer to the day using the old name. That particle bit of history will only die out when that generation dies out. In the same way that I still use Army St. in SF. It has nothing to do with Ceasar Chavez, but simply that is how I learned the street name.

    This isn’t racism, but simply a natural progression of ideas.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  5. Renaming Columbus Day, Explorer’s Day is missing the forest for the trees. Nearly all the other explorers in what became North and South America engaged in all the activities that Columbus is accused of conquest, genocide, and slavery. The entire point of the Indigenous People’s Day movement is that the European discover and settlement of the Americas is not something to be celebrated at all because it caused the rapid destruction of Native American civilization. The problem is that there are many people of European descent in the Americas that take pride in the discovery and settlement of the Americas. To them arguing it was a bad or evil thing is like saying they really shouldn’t exist.

    Being a somewhat contrarian liberal, I think that the people arguing against Columbus Day are making a counter-factual argument that really has no evidence. The belief seems to be that even without the European discover and settlement of the Americas and the often harsh interactions with African and Asia, we can have a world that has all of the good parts of modernity and none of the bad parts. I don’t see it. An alternative history where European discovery/settlement/colonialism/imperialism/trade does not happen is more likely to resemble the world of the late 15th and early 16th century than the liberal 21st century. There would be kings, queens, slavery and serfdom, no democracy, no feminism, no mass middle class, and profitable wars of conquests/raids would still be a thing.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • C’mon, pick a side or face fire from all sides!

      It’s political; Columbus Day started with parades organized by the Knights of Columbus with the purpose of demonstrating that Catholics have a place in the Americas because they were discovered by a Catholic. Eliminating recognition is going to be interpreted by some as lowering their status, so that problem is reduced by expanding the groups recognized, including those explorers that crossed the Bering Strait (though some Indians don’t agree that their ancestors ever came to America).

        Quote  Link

      Report

        • I don’t think I disagree w/Lee’s comment for the most part.

          Living in a state that has Casimir Pulaski Day as a legal holiday, I sort of look at this from a pragmatic standpoint. People have tried to get rid of that holiday, and I think the state eventually allowed schools to waive certain holidays (MLK Jr; Lincoln; Columbus; Pulaski) if the schools dedicate instructional activities appropriate to the holiday, plus hold a public hearing.

            Quote  Link

          Report

      • Facing fire from all sides is something I’m used to. I think that most people arguing for Indigenous People’s Day really don’t care about the history of anti-Catholicism in the United States. At best, its a curious historical event rather than anything really pressing or important. At worst, its a fake oppression that distracts from the real victims. They just see it as a white person’s holiday and believe America would be better off when you reduce the status of white people over all.

          Quote  Link

        Report

  6. It is also bizarre to constantly see some people – not necessarily the author – insist that we cannot judge people by our modern morality, but must account for the morality of the day, as if the morality of the day was not a complete and total disaster. The fear seems to be that we too might one day be judged by the morality of a future time which, yes, that is exactly what should happen.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • Presentism is a problem. Not in the way you mention necessarily but in that a lot of people look at past behaviors and reinterpret them through present lenses. Some things do need to be interpreted through their own time frames to interpret them properly.

        Quote  Link

      Report

        • The Crusades being seen as a white supremacist/colonialist war while ignoring that people really did see religion as a matter of life and death in the Middle Ages rather than our more ecumenical food, festival, fabric version of religious faith.

            Quote  Link

          Report

        • Lincoln was gay because he shared a bed with another man instead of looking at how rough things were back then and solo rooms were rare even for relatively well to do lawyers. Also writing was more intimate back then but not necessarily sexual. This is the classic example. We assume that people can’t be that intimate with non relatives unless it was sexual.

            Quote  Link

          Report

        • Lincoln was gay because he shared a bed with another man instead of looking at how rough things were back then and solo rooms were rare even for relatively well to do lawyers. Also writing was more intimate back then but not necessarily sexual. This is the classic example. We assume that people can’t be that intimate with non relatives unless it was sexual.

            Quote  Link

          Report

            • It’s not that it’s a judgement per se, it’s that it reduces people who had some pretty noble and worthy pursuits to perpetually sexed up sex freaks – as if there was nothing else to them other than their genitals. Including a LOT of people who would have been extremely humiliated to have their sexuality parsed publicly like Emily Dickinson and Anne Frank. Some of these reimaginings and speculation are so egregious that I find them bordering on a kind of posthumous sexual assault to be honest. In my mind there is very little difference between remaking a dead person into a sexual icon against their will, and putting a celebrity’s head on a naked porn body. There’s no consent involved and while the consent issue is a tangled one even for living people, it feels really icky and wrong to me.

              It’s both insulting to their legacies (even for someone like Marilyn Monroe who was a sex symbol while living, of course not entirely on her own terms) and to our intelligence as people who actually do have the ability to exist for higher reasons other than being completely consumed and obsessed by sex.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • “to perpetually sexed up sex freaks – as if there was nothing else to them other than their genitals. “

                See, to me that is a far bigger judgment against present LGBTQ people, than speculating on whether Lincoln was gay is on Lincoln.
                As a bisexual person, that description is pretty much how certain folks (all of them conservative) relate to any revelation that I myself am bisexual – presuming I must be those things and care about nothing but my own genitals or I wouldn’t use *that word* to describe myself – so it’s not a link I’m making up.

                Presuming that someone in the past was gay or bisexual is not the same as what you just said there *at all*.

                Someone could be in love with and having sex with their same-sex best friend – or one of those things but not the other – and none of that reduces them to “perpetually sexed up sex freaks”. The judgment seems to me to be in the hearer, there, not in the speculator. And it’s a pretty cruel judgment, one that stings against me personally, just to be crystal clear about that part.

                Emily Dickinson might be horrified that people speculate on her private matters – almost certainly would be – but she might simultaneously be relieved that there is a much broader acceptance of other ways of being in the world than the one that she very much Did Not Fit.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

      • If we want to understand why people in the past did what they did we need to avoid presentism. This is the way to do history. Other than that we are all fine with it. My stock response to people who say how much they hate presentism is to ask them if the holocaust was fine? How can we judge the nazis by our standards, Or slavery.

        There is no way to understand the present without trying to understand the past and we can not completely step outside our frames of reference.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • The point is to both understand the past and place it in context. To do that, you need both lenses to free of occlusions. It helps to look at things clearly as to the who, what, why and how in order to make a solid argument to the morality of the actions.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • None of this isp particularly relevant to whether we have Columbus Day. That is a holiday held in the present, so presentism is fine.

            Public statues, public holidays – those are not history curricula, they are propaganda.

              Quote  Link

            Report

    • “…insist that we cannot judge people by our modern morality, but must account for the morality of the day…”

      Here’s the flip side of that: When I was working at historical sites and giving tours I was routinely asked questions like, “Why didn’t the slaves just take over the plantations? There were so many more of them than the whites,” or “Slavery in Kentucky must have been a lot better since they were so close to the North and they didn’t try to escape.” You will also hear a lot of discussions about American Indian culture that are woefully rooted in modern morality and not the morality of their day, which leads to incorrect conclusions about how they lived.

      So what I would say is that it’s very easy to use modern sensibilities to judge historic actions, but it’s a silly exercise. Our definition of good and evil changes all the time throughout history. As I said to Chip yesterday, beware the narcissism of the present.

        Quote  Link

      Report

    • No, it’s not bizarre. It’s wise. Because the fact is that if you sit around judging people of the past and assuming you understand their motivations and assuming they thought and felt and knew and believed the same things you do, and as such you are morally superior to them in anything other than the most superficial of ways (by virtue of sheer luck) you will lose sight of the reality – that even good people in bad situations do bad things. You could plunk the 1490 version of Sam or atomic down on the Pinta and that 1490 versions of us would do all those same bad things. We wouldn’t even really consider that the things we were doing were particularly bad because the only world we knew was a world of complete cruelty in which people were being tortured in the public square and gibboted and everyone was dying all around us in horrible gruesome ways.

      Columbus didn’t sail the ocean blue because he was out of cinnamon and needed to run to the corner store to get more. He didn’t do it so a couple of idiots on the internet could debate his motives 500 years later. He did it because his life sucked and everyone’s life sucked because the entire world sucked and he was looking for a way to make it suck less. And by suck less I don’t mean “ow I just cut my gums with a tortilla chip, that sucks” I mean “everyone all around my is dying in horrible gruesome ways and soon I will die in a horrible gruesome way and so will my children but maybe their deaths will be slightly less horrible and gruesome if I take this chance and get some gold for them”. Same motivation we all have for everything. Survival.

      And you know why it’s important to think about this thoroughly and not dismiss it disdainfully as being “bizarre”? It isn’t out of fear that we too may be judged by a future morality. It’s important because we have to acknowledge, really acknowledge with thoughtfulness and humility that we are no better than those who came before us and any of us if we’d been born in the same time and same place would have done the exact same thing. It’s misguided to pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves for being so much better than a sailor on the Pinta or yes, maybe even a Nazi. Because we’re the exact same as they were, we’ve just got the luxury of insane good fortune on our side, and none of us deserve the good fortune we were born into. And we’re forgetting that (well, some of us) and in the forgetting we set ourselves up to repeat history. Good fortune has a way of running out and when it runs out, we’re going to be the same self-preservating dicks we always were. We’ll be beating donkeys with sticks and burning witches and doing genocides and we’ll just create some new mythology to justify it.

      All because we didn’t learn the most important lesson of history – good people in bad situations do bad things, so to prevent bad things, don’t trust people to do good things, just keep the situation as good as you can. Because even good people are bad people. Don’t mess up the world by a false belief in the myth of the highly evolved natures of some people and the fundamentally evil natures of other people because NO people have highly evolved natures and none of us are fundamentally evil, either – at least not in the Disneyfied meaning of the word.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • I pretty much agree with all of this. I think the best solution is no more statues, holidays, buildings, etc named after people. Sooner or later someone has a problem with them viewed through the lens of modernity. With that said, judging Columbus by modern status and deciding he was terrible is arrogance of the highest order.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • Sooner or later someone has a problem with them viewed through the lens of modernity.

          To be sure, but sooner or later someone will also want to commemorate someone important to them.

          Then again, yes, someone will probably have a problem with people we commemorate now a few generations down the line, and very possibly for reasons we wouldn’t foresee. This seems… natural and healthy to me?

            Quote  Link

          Report

      • Again, , Christoper Columbus was considered overly violent toward natives by the standards of New World explorers of his time. So, yes, I’m actually pretty sure that anybody here taking over the mind of Christopher Columbus in 1491 would do better.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • Christoper Columbus was considered overly violent toward natives by the standards of New World explorers of his time.

          I’m going to have to ask for a citation here because this is the first time I have read this claim. The Conquistadors were by-and-large pretty violent towards the native populations.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • How about this one:

            Lost document reveals Columbus as tyrant of the Caribbean

            or, if The Guardian is too liberal a source,

            Columbus

            This nugget from the last article strikes me as outside what would be considered acceptable even in the 1490s

            In some areas, native individuals above the age of 14 were forced to collect a certain amount of gold powder in order to receive a token, Smithsonian Magazine reports. If they failed to meet the quota, their hand would be hacked off.

            But even if it wasn’t, while I understand the point about judging people by the standards of their time, I still don’t really want him held up as a hero to be celebrated in mine.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • I don’t see anything here that sounds more horrible than the stories I have read about other explorers. Perhaps Columbus was the first in the New Word to behave like this, but he certainly wasn’t the last.

              I’m not defending his behavior, but obviously he also accomplished something very important. History is complicated that way.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • You asked for sources showing he was recognized in his own time as being overly oppressive. Both speak to that.

                The first discusses a report made by an agent of the Spanish govt, who you will note was sent to investigate because the monarchs (not exactly paragons of virtue by modern standards) had become alarmed by ” growing rumours of Columbus’ barbarity and avarice”.

                Bobadilla collected the testimonies of 23 people who had seen or heard about the treatment meted out by Columbus and his brothers. “Even those who loved him had to admit the atrocities that had taken place,” Ms Varela said.

                Columbus and his brothers were forced to travel back to Spain. Columbus was in chains but, although he never recovered his titles, he was set free and allowed to sail back to the Caribbean.

                So even if later Conquistidors were also horrible, there is evidence that in his own time Columbus was recognized as having been especially brutal, so much so that he lost his position and nearly lost his liberty because of it.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

      • “we are no better than those who came before us” might be true about everybody who ever came before us, but it is certainly true about lots of people that came before us. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the utter monstrousness of institutions like slavery, nor is there is anything wrong with asserting that we are better people than those who, for example, owned slaves, no matter how much some people want to celebrate slaveholders.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • “…nor is there is anything wrong with asserting that we are better people than…”

          We are not better people. We live in a society that is better. As others have pointed out, if any of us were born 500 years ago, we would be very different people, have different morals, etc. No doubt, 500 years from now people will look back on our time and think us savages.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • I can agree with “different people with different morals”, and that I’m no better than people who lived 500 years ago, in general. I’m certainly worse than a sizable number people who lived 500 years ago (more venial, for example, more self-centered, less disciplined, than many people whom I respect greatly even where their choices are abhorrent to me), so it would take a very large number of people I was better than to say I was better than them. I don’t believe that I am.

            But that I’m no better than Columbus or his like?

            Pah.

            See my comment to Kristin, below.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • Sam’s comment was that “we are better people than those who, for example, owned slaves…” I guess it depends on how you define this. I could say, yes, I am a better person because I don’t own slaves, but that doesn’t make me a better person. With 153 years having passed, slavery is such a foreign concept to us today that most people (myself included) have trouble even wrapping our heads around it. But even if I thought it was a great idea, society doesn’t give me the option to own slaves. It essentially forces us to be better people, which is a concept I think both liberals and conservatives should be able to agree with. On the flip side, cutting off a thief’s hand (which Bookdragon’s link describes) is something I think a lot of people today can imagine and I would guess a not-insignificant number of Americans would think it’s a good idea even today. So maybe we haven’t evolved so much on that front, but again, society doesn’t permit that kind of stuff anymore. So… I still come back to society itself being better, not necessarily we as individuals. Human impulses being what they are.

              I’m happy to have a nature vs. nurture conversation with you here, and I don’t think it’s off-topic. I do believe that there are some people who just have good hearts. They might have lived 500 years ago and openly said, “Hey Columbus, I’m not cool with what you are doing,” and apparently there were people that did, but I bet there were a lot less people who felt that way than there would be today.

              I keep thinking of a Dan Carlin podcast where he talked about a fairly large battle in ancient times. He spent a lot of time speculating about what it must have been to go into battle not with rifles that could kill someone from distance, but when everyone is armed with swords and you would be hacking other men to pieces. He talked about how much blood would have been on the battlefield from those kinds of wounds and how literally the landscape would have been red. Could the average person today get to that point psychologically?

              Ever war has its horrors, no doubt, but we are all a product of our times. I disagree with you that anyone can know what their heart would do if they lived a completely different life, exposed to different things, educated in different ways, etc. I mean, just look at this site. Most of us are well-educated, white Americans. Yet we have very different opinions on the same issues because of our experiences. If you honestly believe that Maribou in 1492 would be a great person, I won’t discount your belief in yourself, but I would never presume the same for myself.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • “anyone can know what their heart would do if they lived a completely different life, exposed to different things, educated in different ways, etc”

                See, I think where we’re disagreeing is at least in part that someone who was all of those things would still in any meaningful way be the same person….

                Also I didn’t say I was a great person, merely better than Columbus (and, yes, better than those who unselfcritically, nonsubversively owned slaves. Again, any maribou that would do that wouldn’t be maribou.) To me that’s a pretty low bar.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • I don’t think anyone was arguing that if we stepped into a time machine we wouldn’t be appalled by what we saw. I thought the discussion was around having some consideration for how different the word then and how it’s hard for us to interpret their actions using contemporary morality.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

      • (note: this comment refers to abominable treatment and child sexual abuse in plain, though brief terms)

        “any of us if we’d been born in the same time and same place would have done the exact same thing… we’ve just got the luxury of insane good fortune on our side”

        I just flat out don’t believe this.

        I was born into a time and place that led to me being repeatedly sexually abused, sometimes painfully raped, by my father for years, starting at about age 4.

        Yes, there are many things about my time and place that are lovely and wonderful and I cherish them and they are so much better than the alternative of having had the same exact experiences (because I am sure people did) 400 years ago.

        But I didn’t have any cakewalk even by those ancient standards – without getting into too many further details of abuse and neglect, there are plenty of obscene tortures and fucked up situations that modern people generally don’t go through, that I went through.
        My survival was the opposite of assured for pretty much my entire life up to age 18 and I fought like HELL to escape and yes, I did do some people some harm in my fighting.

        But, and, andbut, I 100 percent would never, ever treat anyone the way Columbus and his compatriots treated the women and children they murdered and raped.

        100 percent.

        No way.

        And I spit defiance at any child of a relatively happy home that cheerfully claims “we all would in their place”.

        No, I would *not*. I’ve played that game, the what would you do to survive game, and there are choices I refused, and greatly increased my own risk by so doing. Have done so several times where I truly thought I wouldn’t survive it.

        I’m not going to pretend otherwise for the sake of some false humility (I’ve got plenty of other things to be humble about), nor concur that “everyone would do those things”.

        Many would. Some would not.

        Any version of *me* that would do those things, regardless of their place in the time diaspora, would be so changed as to not be me anymore.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • PS By the way, I realize that in my limited ability to be online in the first few days, I may’ve made it seem like I’m picking on your comments to disagree with specifically – that isn’t the case and I wanted to make it clear it’s because of all the things people say that I disagree with, I very often find you’ve made a more rhetorically gifted, more compelling case for yours, that I engage with them, and not because I’m trying to knock down the things you have to say. Even when they really bother me – they bother me because you put them across so well as much as anything else.

          I dunno, it seemed pertinent to say that.

            Quote  Link

          Report

  7. My gut feeling is that we have too many Federal holidays already (where most of us working schlubs are at work, but we can’t go to the bank if we need to and there’s no mail), and this seems like a comparatively-painless one to get rid of. I would also not be averse to eliminating Presidents’ Day.

    And yes, I sympathize with the “but Italians were once oppressed” argument, but….if we want to claim we’re a melting pot (is that even still a thing?), eventually you gotta let all the flavors meld and stop being separate.

    I used to live in a state where Casimir Pulaski Day was a thing and many schools were off for it. I guess it depends on what ethnic lobby you have.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  8. I’d be okay with celebrating Bartolomé de las Casas Day

    I assume you know he was the one that suggested that African slaves be imported, since they were far better adapted for work in mines and plantations , unlike natives that were dying left and right, of, the Conquerors assumed, exhaustion from work (*)

    In Las Casas defense, in later life he repented of his suggestion of importing African slaves, and he fought forcefully against indigenous and black slavery. Alas, he was slightly more successful in the former, at least de jure, than in the latter

    (*)In reality the natives were dying from Old World infectious diseases, most of which the Africans were already immune to

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • Yeah, he’s just a better example of evolving ethics than… well, Columbus anyway. To be fair, I haven’t read either since undergraduate days and my memory of Columbus’s writings was he seemed like he was already a religious fanatic and losing his mind on that voyage.

        Quote  Link

      Report

          • They likely weren’t trying to immigrate. They were setting up a base camp to see if they could find anything profitable in the area, which sometimes takes a year or two. The Vikings were all about profit because it cost a lot of money to maintain outposts so far from Europe, and they were making a lot of money off Greenland.

            Pretty much everything we thought we knew about the Viking settlement of Greenland turns out to be wrong. Smithsonian article

            They had a lucrative monopoly on ivory until the Portuguese opened up Africa as a source of elephant ivory, and then the profits dried up so the Greenlanders sailed home.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • Thanks. That’s an interesting article. But it doesn’t exactly support the idea that the Norse were never anything but opportunists temporarily settling somewhere until profits went elsewhere (400 years is a long time to maintain a temporary outpost ;) ). It sounds like ivory trade collapsing was one of several factors that finally made them abandon Greenland.

              According to the sagas, the expedition to Vinland was for settlement though. Maybe those are fabricated tales, but they don’t fit the mold of hero myths so the tendency is to see them as (somewhat embellished – we’re talking fire side family stories after all) history. There’s also evidence they explored further than thought previously and given the resources in North America it’s hard to believe they abandoned forests and potential farm land as unprofitable. So it remains a mystery perhaps, but I don’t think they intended to just stop by on holiday.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • Farmland is great, but how do you make money trying to turn around and sell your produce in Europe when you’re sailing in open boats? A voyage across the North Atlantic in a longboat is the definition of high risk transport, and then as now people weigh risk versus return on investment. There can’t be much return because a longboat is only carry a few wagon-loads worth of cargo, and if that cargo is wheat, forget about it. For low-risk farmland with vastly easier transport they’d have gone to England, France, or into Eastern Europe.

                The Vikings didn’t know about tobacco, and the Newfoundland area is still mostly fishing. My guess is that unless they found ivory, jewels, or high grade ores, they were never going to stay.

                It’s not until far more capable ocean-going cargo ships became available that Atlantic transport could viably support any type of colony.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *