Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Monday, October 12, 2015

Columbus Day

Sometimes, the effort to set the historical record straight is decried as "revisionist history."  Of course, all history is constantly being revised.  The whole point of the academic discipline of history is to explore and explain things that have no factual answers.  History is a debate, and the terms change with our understanding of the past.

The origins of Columbus Day actually occur around the lynching of 11 Sicilian immigrants in New Orleans in 1891.  With the 400th anniversary of the Columbus' landing in the New World just around the corner, the government decided to remind people that Italians had been coming to the Americas for a long time.

Of course, we now know just how brutal and despicable a person Columbus really was.  He was an ardent slaver, a torturer and likely a rapist.  He certainly condoned the murder and rape of thousands of Taino Indians.

Columbus' contribution to history is primarily being really bad at geometry.  Ever since Ptolemy, intelligent people knew the earth was round and they had a pretty good idea of its circumference.  Columbus may or may not have heard about legends of a land to the west of Europe from Norse sagas and epics that he may or may not have read when he was travelling in the North Atlantic.

What we do know is that Columbus felt the world was much smaller than it really is.  Whether he based this assumption on bad math or the Norse sagas or a combination of the two, he set out for India on a suicide mission until the Americas popped up out of the ocean.

To his dying breath, Columbus refused to admit he had found a new continent.  He continued to believe he had reached Asia.

Columbus was a stubborn idiot.

He was cruel, he was stubborn, he was ridiculously ambitious and he was hated by most people who had contact with him.  I'm sure he loved his dog, if he had one.

Canada has already replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People's Day.  I don't know if that would fly here.  Maybe.

What about Immigrant's Day?  This would obviously not placate Native Americans, but it would come closer to the intent of the original Columbus Day - before modern research uncovered the atrocities Columbus committed.

Not to mention it would make Donald Trump turn even oranger in rage.


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