Monday, October 11, 2010

Why I Don't Celebrate Columbus Day

Today is Columbus Day. As a kid, the only joy I took in this holiday was the free day from school I got. Like all children in the United States, I was indoctrinated to believe that Columbus "discovered" the Americas and was a really awesome dude. He even had a catchy song-tune!

Much of what I learned were lies or half-truths created to perpetuate a myth.

Myth #1: Columbus discovered the Americas
I don't know about you, but if I "discover" an island with people already living on it, I can't say I'm the first to discover it. For thousands of years, people lived fine and dandy without anyone to announce that they had "discovered" a new land. And if you don't count native people as people, then you still have to acknowledge that Leif Erickson landed on present-day Canada hundreds of years before Columbus. (Also, if you don't count native people as people, stop reading my blog).

Myth #2: Columbus was a hero
For example, the native people of the Bahamas were so freaking nice when Columbus arrived that he found it distinctly easy to enslave them. The native Arawaks were described by Columbus himself as generous, kind-hearted...and what do you do to the generous and kind-hearted? You enslave them, rape their 9-yr-old girls, and feed their babies to hungry dogs. That's a no-brainer, right? Within two years of Columbus' landing, he helped exterminate 50% of the 250,000 Arawaks living on the island. That's nothing but a genocide.

It's time we stopped glorifying and admiring this man. He did not discover the Americas. He was not a hero. He was a mass-murdering slave trader, and our government must stop endorsing him as a mythical hero. School children should be taught compassion and respect, and they should be taught to celebrate role models who emulate those qualities. Columbus does not even come close.

And that is why I don't celebrate Columbus Day and encourage you to do the same.

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