Monday, October 11, 2010
Boo to Columbus Day
I remember as clear as day, sitting on a wooden chair in school (2nd grade? 3rd grade?) and the teacher talking about how in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue and 'discovered' America. Having already studied Native Americans, this threw me for a loop. I raised my hand asking how can somebody get credit for discovering a land that already had people?
Had Eddie Izzard been my teacher (FANTASY!) he may have responded: "With the cunning use of flags." And he would have been absolutely correct.
Sadly, Mr. Izzard was not teaching at Mark Twain Elementary in the 1970s so I was undoubtedly given another explanation about how the Spanish explorer 'discovered' a place he thought was Asia (thus providing the nickname 'Indians' to the local residents) and claiming it for Queen Isabella I. In other words, a land is not discovered until hordes of white people arrive and set up 11,000 Starbucks.
It's one of those traditional American school subjects that I could never get my head around. Much like the day we were taught about slavery in the U.S. ("What do you mean 'buy people,' you can't BUY people!" I drove my teachers nuts on this.)
While I realize that CC's trip meant the opening of the land for trade and development to the Western world, it certainly meant the slaughter of so many native tribes and I'm not sure that's worth celebrating.
Seems silly to honor a navigator who got lost. Count me out.