Christopher Columbus was a monster.
He saw people as commodities to be bought and sold. He destroyed lives for personal gain. His crimes include rape, murder, torture and genocide.
And today, many of us get to enjoy a beautiful Autumn day in celebration of the man who didn’t actually discover America.
Across the country people are also celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signing the holiday into law Monday. The predictable cries of “going too far in terms of political correctness” are being heard, especially from the Italian-American community in Seattle. They are upset not because Columbus Day is being cancelled, (it isn’t) they are upset because Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Columbus Day are happening on the same date.
Mayor Murray says the new holiday “will add new significance to the date without replacing the Columbus Day tradition.” People will be free to celebrate either holiday, both, or neither, but many don’t want this new holiday to encroach on what they see as an ethnic, Italian-American celebration.
But let’s face facts: Columbus was a monster, and he doesn’t deserve to have a day of celebration in his honor. Really, this day off should celebrate any of the many great and positive things we enjoy about this world… but not historical monsters. We can certainly do better.
I know that this post will fall on many deaf ears. People will defend Columbus and Columbus Day the same way people defend the Confederate Flag and the antebellum South. Reality is inconvenient and history is fungible. Realistically confronting the legacy of Columbus opens up all sorts of questions about the exploitative nature of commerce and the erasure of indigenous cultures. It pries open the wound of first-world guilt: our wealth is built on the backs of slaves working stolen land.
For me, Monday is a day of contemplation, not celebration.
I’m going to take this day off to go apple picking with my family, catch the Pronk Parade, and be with friends. Along the way I’ll reflect a bit on the horrors people are willing to inflict on others in the name of profits, with a hope that we can work together to advance the fight to see inherent rather than economic value in others.
And I’m going to reread this awesome comic.