Happy traditional Columbus Day!

12Oct17

As every kid in America used to know, it was on Oct. 12, 1492 that Columbus discovered America. Most kids also learned the little poem that began, “In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” I learned it in kindergarten at Miss Hope’s progressive Studio School on Montrose Avenue.

Do schools still teach that poem to kids? That’s a rhetorical question. As my education continued at the Greenwood School, I learned more details about Columbus’s heroic voyages.
This may shock you, but within living memory schools actually taught that the discovery of America was a good thing. That was before Americans had a fully-developed sense of self-loathing.

Columbus Day was always celebrated on Oct. 12 when I was a kid. Of course, that was only a few years after the discovery of America, so it was a lot fresher in people’s minds.

Now (or should I say, “for now”), we celebrate Columbus Day on the second Monday in October so some people can get the day off.

I liked the tradition of Columbus Day falling on the exact date that Columbus made landfall, but I’m open-minded. I don’t care when we celebrate it – as long as we celebrate it.

These days if you voice support for any historical tradition, the name “Board of Selectmen,” for example, someone is bound to remind you that slavery was also once a tradition.

Oh, OK. Never mind, then.

Slavery is another thing, along with genocide of the native population, that Columbus is blamed for, although he neither invented slavery nor did he introduce it to the Americas.

No matter. There are those who want to get rid of Columbus Day altogether and replace it with something called Indigenous Peoples Day. In this simplistic view, a historical figure like Christopher Columbus must be held to standards that did not exist until centuries after his death.

Since Christopher Columbus was Italian, he and the holiday named for him have been adopted by Italian-Americans as symbols of ethnic pride. But now, some of the antipathy once shown toward Italian immigrants has come back in the form of anti-Columbus sentiment.

Protesters dump red paint on statues of Columbus to symbolize the bloodshed he supposedly set in motion, or they try to tear the statues down entirely. In fairness, these people don’t hate Columbus or even Italians so much as they hate America, which they can never forgive Columbus for discovering.

Question: If we rename the second Monday in October “Indigenous Peoples Day,” would Oct. 12 become “traditional Indigenous Peoples Day?” That’s another rhetorical question.

A number of communities have already declared that within their borders, the second Monday in October will henceforth be called Indigenous Peoples Day.

Think it can’t happen here?

Well, Wakefield is in the process of gender neutralizing everything and we have a proposal coming up at the November 6 Town Meeting to outlaw plastic bags.

From there, it’s only a short voyage to Indigenous Peoples Day.

Can you say, “Goodbye Columbus?”

[This column originally appeared in the October 10, 2017 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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One Response to “Happy traditional Columbus Day!”

  1. 1 Sheila Roberge

    I went to Miss Hope’s studio school too. I have been trying to find out who she was and more about her school which was indeed progressive. Do you know where I can find out some information. Thanks.


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