Columbus Day and Other Stuff We’ve Ruined

Christopher Columbus Day

Tomorrow is Columbus Day.  In the parts of California where I grew up – Alameda in elementary grades and San Rafael in middle and high school – October 12th was school as usual.  But it was a holiday complete with parades and no school in nearby San Francisco, a fact that we kids always felt was unfair.  We were told it was because of the large Italian population in The City which, of course, made no sense at all to me and my friends.

So, if the October 12th fell on a weekday, we who were school-bound were provided with forty minutes or so of activities centering around the old rhyme “Columbus sailed the ocean blue, In fourteen hundred ninety-two.”  Somehow, the teachers managed, through skits or stories or bulletin boards, to give us a sense of pride in our  country’s beginnings.  I, for one, loved Columbus Day and all the history that went with it.

Indigeneous Peoples Day

Little did I know that the history, or at least the versions of it we were taught, was all wrong.  Now that more than 500 years have passed since he sailed the ocean blue, Columbus is disparaged as much as he is praised. Beginning in 1992 in Berkeley, California, cities started renaming the second Monday in October “Indigenous People’s Day” to shift focus from the conqueror to the conquered.

And, of course, the new awakening of our consciousness did not stop with Columbus. In 1995, James W. Loewen’s book, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, reviewed the common misstatements and misrepresentations in the retelling of American history in high school history texts. Not only did Loewen, a sociologist and history professor, point out the often deceptive and inaccurate teachings about America’s history, but he criticized the texts for a tendency to elevate American historical figures to the status of heroes, unintentionally giving students the impression that these figures were superhumans who live in the irretrievable past.

Wonder Woman

Damn!  Who knew?  No more heroes like Columbus or Massasoit or Paul Revere?  Not to mention George Washington or Thomas Jefferson or Sacagawea?  Next, they’ll be telling me that we have to turn those historical personages in for the ‘real’ superheroes like Spiderman or Wonder Woman.  I despair.

I’m still thinking about celebrating Columbus Day tomorrow… I wonder if Jayne is back to making sandwiches at Bailey’s Café.  I think having one of her fabulous “Italians” would be the perfect tribute!

2 Responses to “Columbus Day and Other Stuff We’ve Ruined”

  1. Bill says:

    I find it difficult to celebrate and honor a man who got lost and then took it out on the local population by enslaving and murdering them. And momma Mia es Italiana


    sydney Reply:

    Well, that’s not quite the guy that we ‘honored’ back in the day. It was more about taking three rickety little sailing boats out in the vast unknown and returned to Spain to tell about it. It was a beginning… one of many.
    Not sure what Momma Mia has to do with it but I loved the movie.


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