Thursday, September 28, 2017

"Goodbye, Columbus (The Explorer, Not The Movie)"

(From the people who brought you “We closed down the ‘Petting Zoo’ because the baby goats looked depressed.”)

Dispatch from the “Misplaced Attention” Department…

I just sighed. 

And I haven’t even started yet.

You may not sigh when you hear about this.

You may, in fact, sigh that I sighed.

It could be a good day for sighing all around.

Here’s what I’m talking about.  (Before you sigh at my beating around the bush.)

On August 30, 2017, the Los Angeles City Council voted to henceforth eliminate “Columbus Day” for their official calendar. 

Hence, the above title,

“Goodbye, Columbus.”

I just sighed again.  (And only partly because of the less than memorable play-on-words.)

I don’t know when it began, but at some point in our recent history, people of a certain ideological leaning started going after Columbus, making him the “Poster Boy” for the devastation – human and otherwise – that followed the European immigrants’ arrival to this continent.

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS:  “That’s a-crazy!  What did I-a do?”

Good question. (And my apologies for the “a-crazy” and the “a-do.”  It is comedy heresy to bypass the opportunity for a laugh, if only a cheesy “dialect laugh.”  I shall try to keep those to a minimum, but ingrained – and remunerative – habits die hard.)

There were arguments disparaging Columbus’s accomplishment, beginning with deconstructing the statement we all internalized in school:

“Christopher Columbus discovered America.”

Columbus, it is revisionistically explained, did not discover America.  America was already there.  (Ignoring the validity of alternative definitions of the word “discover.”  (See:  “I discovered my sister was actually my mother” – a preexisting reality, although it still comes as a surprise.)

Acceding to the argument-backed definition of the word, exemplified by, “Jonas Salk discovered the polio vaccine” (which was not already there),

There goes “discovered” from “Christopher Columbus discovered America.”


Columbus’s ships never reached America, dropping anchor instead on what became later the Bahamas. 

Meaning Columbus was close, but not actually here.

Leaving, from that longstanding, educational dictum, “Christopher Columbus discovered America”,

“Christopher Columbus…”

... and that’s it.

(“Christopher Columbus discovered the Bahamas” is factually accurate, but who cares?)

By the way – exposing a logical contradiction – if the man never actually landed in this country, how could he possibly be responsible for what subsequently transpired?

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS:  “’Atsa right.  So what did I a-do?”

Check out this accomplishment.  And it struck home to me “first hand.”

Once, while visiting Chicago, staying in a hotel abutting the river, I looked out the window and saw a replica of one of Columbus’s ships, bobbing sea-worthily in the water.  Elated by this fortuitous happenstance, I immediately raced (as best I could) over, to get a closer look at this (reconstructed) historic artifact. 

The first thing you notice about the replica Nina – or was it the replica Pinta? –

The thing is really, really, tiny!

Donald Trump has bathtubs bigger than that boat!  (He would probably brag.  Or maybe actually has one.)

Think about this, before throwing Christopher Columbus to the wolves.  (Or, keeping with the nautical motif, overboard.)

An Italian adventurer sets off from the south coast of Spain, sails across a vast ocean he is not at all sure won’t drop them over the edge of the earth, guided only by the stars above him – and not even by them when it was cloudy; he could only approximate where those guiding stars probably were – suffering capsizing waves and no available fresh fruit (“How come my teeth are falling out?” – “I don’t know; must be the sea air.”), heading for a place no one but Vikings had ever visited before – and they never went back, preferring Swedish maidens to their American counterparts… maybe – without any assurance they would arrive safety at their destination – albeit the wrong destination – without succumbing to a myriad of unknown dangers – and then makes the return voyage safely back to Spain. 

In that tiny little boat!

I say,

That guy deserves a commemorative holiday.

And if you don’t think so, naysayers, try doing that yourselves.

There’s a “Part B” to this story.

The Los Angeles City Council plans to re-label “Columbus Day” “Indigenous Peoples Day.” 

Yeah.  That’ll sufficiently balance the books.

“Hey, it’s a step.”

No, it isn’t.  A “step” would be actual policies, bettering their condition.  Not “I know we decimated your culture and came this close to erasing you from the planet, but we’re giving you a (used) holiday, and if we can swing it, a commemorative stamp.”

The gesture is made, and everybody feels better.  Next up?  “No Indian-identified sports teams.”

Here’s me.  Honoring American Indians? – I’m all for it.  (Check out our living room; it’s like a Native Indian museum.)  You want to give them a holiday, count me in. 

But not at the expense of poor Christopher Columbus.

Because, paraphrasing the intrepid explorer himself (at least in my imagination)…

What did he a-do

1 comment:

Me again said...

Much a-do about nuttin'?