What to do about Columbus Day? Old habits die hard, but if you ever take a moment to read from Columbus’ journal (see first chapter of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States), I can’t imagine how anyone could justify the continued celebration of brutality, greed, arrogance, genocide and persecution, all in the name of God, of course. Here in California, we’ve tried to switch it to Indigenous People’s Day, but it hasn’t exactly taken off.
I wrote about this in my ABC’s book, our need for heroes, our reluctance to let them go when they’ve been built up to us and in the case of Columbus, his mythic status as the daring explorer going beyond the boundaries of accepted knowledge and changing our worldview— a worthy quality. Mostly lies, that "whole world is flat, think I’ll prove it different" shtick. More about follow the money (“I hear there’s gold in them there hills!”), but it would be too honest to name that myth out loud.
Given what we now know— or should know (most still don’t)— what’s an appropriate use of this holiday? I do suggest reading that Zinn chapter mentioned above and spreading the word. One Facebook post suggested celebrating by breaking and entering someone’s house and telling them it’s your home now. (Be sure to bring a flag). Here in San Francisco there was a ceremony performed by the few remaining indigenous Ohlone Indians (though way too early in the morning for me).
But I imagine most folks, as we do on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day and other such holidays, will simply think “Yee ha! A day off!” and go for a long bike ride, as I’m about to do. But at least a pause (this blog) to apologize to all who suffered from Coumbus and what he represented and some gratitude to have the privilege of being here now in this place, something that ironically wouldn’t have happened without him. And the renewed vow to keep telling the true story and be alert to signs that the Columbus mentality (still with us) is at it again and stave off its future incarnations.
I wonder what our Congressional representatives are doing today? I guess not taking a hike in a National Park. Hmm.