We all heard the annoying mnemonic in grade school. In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. It’s a simple fact we don’t give much thought, like the porn collection of our grandparents or brand of anal lube our parents prefer. Some things are worth not not thinking about. Some things, however, are worth some extra scrutiny.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind Columbus Day. Who doesn’t enjoy yet another excuse for sales at the mall or a day off work? I’m an American. I’ll use any excuse to celebrate something.
That said, it helps if that something is worth celebrating. For Columbus Day, unfortunately, that worth is questionable at best. It’s supposed to commemorate Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America. However, that little factoid is dubious at best and outdated at worst.
Never mind the fact that Native Americans have been roaming the Americas since 12,000 BC. Never mind the fact that Vikings established temporary settlements on America nearly 500 years before Columbus. Never mind the fact that Christopher Columbus was an outright racist who exploited the shit out of the Native Americans he encountered, on top of spreading disease no less. Never mind that…
Actually, I should probably just quit while I’m behind. Let’s face it. History tends to be much less romantic. When we’re kids, it’s kind of hard to discuss things like genocide, slavery, and racism. That just makes kids cry and we don’t need that. They cry enough with Pixar movies.
So what do we do with Columbus Day? Well, it’s another day off and another excuse for sales. That’s pretty much it. Does that vindicate the asshole it’s named after? I don’t think so. We’re Americans. We’re really good at turning a blind eye to horrible shit in our history, especially in certain parts of the deep south. It doesn’t change or undo any of the shit that history does. So what’s the big deal?
I’ll still wish everyone a happy Columbus Day for what it’s worth, but I’ll still question just how much it’s worth celebrating. It’s a question that John Oliver already answered on his HBO show last year so I’ll leave you with that before exploiting the shit out of some sales. It’s still a holiday though. In this hectic world of ours, I think we need to as many as we can get away with.