Happy Columbus Day everybody. We’re celebrating a brutal, violent tyrant that opened up the Americas for colonization by European imperialists. I wonder how many American Indians (I’m not sure if that is the PC term) celebrate the man who initiated the near extermination of the new land’s indigenous population over the course of five centuries? Right here where I’m sitting writing this. My house is located in an area were Pootatuck Indians of the Paugusset Nation (generally friendly to the newcomers according to my source) roamed the land and made a living 500 years ago.
The Indians saved the early colonists from starvation and exposure, or at least so the fable goes. We thanked them with smallpox infected blankets, stealing their land, the trail of tears, fire water and forced relocation to reservations. We even created a Bureau of Indian Affairs to manage them and see to it that their every need was met. So I guess it all worked out well in the end, sort of like a win-win. Now the few remaining are enacting revenge on the White Man by taking his money with their casinos. Good for them!
But don’t get me wrong here. I love America. I’m not being un-American or unpatriotic. I’m not even sure what it means to be a patriot; it certainly is a word with many connotations. Let’s not forget that in 1776 the loyalists were patriots and the signatories of the Declaration of Independence along with George W. and his merry band of rebels where traitors against their lawful ruler, the king of England. But I digress.
I’m not proposing that all non-Native-Americans (there we go with the PC terms again) should self-deport and the land be restored to its rightful owners and proper restitution made for pain and suffering over half-a-millennium. That would be silly (not to mention a practical and logistical nightmare!), but I am suggesting we take a minute out of our navel-gazing celebration of American exceptionalism, self-glorification and righteous pride to consider, in all humility, the price that was paid and the injustices inflicted to achieve status as The Greatest Nation On The Face Of The Earth. Ever. Keep that in mind as we move on. What might the world look like today if, in an alternate universe, Mr Columbus had chickened out half-way across the Atlantic, turned around and The New World remained undiscovered?
Added as an afterthought: Shouldn’t it really be Leif Eiriksson Day? As an American with lots of Norse blood flowing through my veins I find it insulting that a lowly Genoese gets all the glory when he got beat by a good 500 years by my Viking ancestors. And they also had the common decency (decency not that common among marauding Vikings) to leave when they understood that they had overstayed their welcome.