Follow by Email

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Columbus Day Revisited

In the United States, Congress and the rest of the federal government took the day off. Schools closed. Mail stacked up at the post office. The National Park Service placed a wreath at the statue of Christopher Columbus in Washington, D.C. But who really cared?
Elsewhere in the world, especially in the increasingly activist and history-conscious indigenous Americas, many people lamented the coming of the white man to the "new" world. They called it Indigenous Peoples Day. Evo Morales, the indigenous president of Bolivia, a country where half the people describe themselves as "Indian" and the other half "mestizo," called it a "day of mourning."
Seems to me, however, that the cat is really out of the bag, and it does no one any good to continue to blame white people for the suffering of native peoples today. It's a bit like blaming white people today for slavery in prior centuries.
Education is good and helpful: We should all know the legacy that Cristobal Colombo brought to the Americas. But those politicians, nonprofit activists, political organizers and others who want to use this as a rallying cry are not really helping the situation or creating the conditions for better relations among peoples. That said, citizens of the USA should probably reconsider whether Columbus is the guy we want to honor with a federal holiday. Perhaps Leif Erickson would be more appropriate.

No comments: