So Monday is Columbus Day, and like many, I am off from work. But why?
Let me preface what you’re about to read with this: I’m not complaining about having a paid day off from work—as Erma Bombeck (or was it Anna Quindlen?) has said, “No one at the end of their life looks back and says, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.’”
I mean, I get that it’s to honor Christopher Columbus and the “founding of America,” but why do we need a day off for that? As my son says, “How can you ‘discover’ something if there are already people there when you arrive?” The evidence also shows that there were (at minimum) Viking explorers who arrived here long before Cristoforo Colombo washed up on the shores of a place he called San Salvador (the natives had been calling it Guanahani). Heck, he wasn’t even looking for the place—he was trying to get to get to Southeast Asia! He also thought the lands he had found were the outskirts of the Orient and continued to believe so, even after others had proved otherwise, which is just more fodder as to why exactly do we celebrate this.
I guess Columbus’s fame comes from being the impetus for the European colonization for the Americas, which, by the way take their name from Amerigo Vespucci—the guy who realized that this was a “New World” and acted accordingly. It seems as though his birthday (March 9, same as my non-whore sister) should be the day we commemorate, you know, since we live in the United States of America. Just sayin’.
But again, why are we celebrating this day? I get Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays—great men who were critical to the founding and preservation of our nation. Independence Day and Thanksgiving have deep historical implications. Other holidays have religious connections—Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur, Ramadan, etc. I even understand Veteran’s and Memorial Day—the former to honor those who have served our country while they are still alive to appreciate it, the latter to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom.
But this day is set aside to celebrate the birth of a guy who “accidentally” stumbled into a place where people had already been living for centuries? I can name a half dozen people off the top of my head who deserve to be commemorated before Columbus because of their contributions to and impact on our nation.
Susan B. Anthony
Philo Farnsworth (look it up and tell me I’m wrong)
I’m sure you can name a few others …
But the question of whether it’s a misnomer or not aside, why do we need a whole day off to boot? It’s not like there’s anything special going on, aside from a few furniture store sales. A few cities, like New Haven, have actual Columbus Day parades, but those are almost always held on Sunday. No one gathers the family together for a feast of roast beast and who hash, and to raise a mug to ol’ Cristoforo. No one dresses like Columbus (or even a Bahamian native), and there’s no Columbus Day pageant full of Columbus-related verse and song. (“In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” is a single line, not even a full poem!) Heck, there aren’t even fireworks and I think if there’s *one* thing we can agree on as a country is that we don’t need much of an excuse blow stuff up! (Minor league baseball games, birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, mall openings, etc.)
So really, after thinking about all this, Columbus Day is really a day off for no reason and with nothing to do . . .
I’m good with that.