Columbus - Monday Musing, October 12, 2020
Columbus. If you are like me, you learned in school about Christopher Columbus, an Italian explorer and navigator who completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean, opening the way for European exploration and colonization of the Americas. Celebrations commemorating the landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World on October 12, 1492 have been observed as far back as 1792, but it was not until 1968 that Columbus Day became an official federal holiday.
Winston Churchill is attributed as saying, “History is written by the victors,” which indicates that history may not necessarily be grounded in facts, but rather it’s the winners’ interpretation of them that prevails. Columbus’ voyages are considered an important event in world history because they kickstarted modern globalism, which resulted in demographic, commercial, economic, social, and political changes. However, “discovering” a world that already existed and was populated by indigenous people hardly seems a cause for celebration, but I say this from a twenty-first century perspective.
In fourteen states, Indigenous Peoples’ Day replaces the Columbus Day holiday as a way of honoring the Native populations of America, most of whom were violently uprooted and exploited beginning with the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Such a move does not wipe Christopher Columbus or other explorers from our history books. By renaming the October holiday, some would argue, moves us toward a fuller understanding of the origins of the country that became the United States of America.
If a holiday is defined as a day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event, doesn’t it seem that fewer people are truly commemorating holidays, choosing instead to use that time as an opportunity for a three-day weekend to shop, recreate, travel, or visit family? I don’t begrudge people who want to get away and have fun, but how is that honoring Christopher Columbus or Indigenous People?
Maybe we should be honest with ourselves by simply admitting that we enjoy holidays not for the significance of the event/day/person, but because it is good to get a break from our normal routines. After all, numerous studies have found that taking regular holidays lessens our risk of dying from any cause other than old age and minimizes the risk of heart disease. Taking regular breaks also helps reduce stress, which can lead to a variety of health problems like obesity, depression, and anxiety.
So, enjoy the day off!