Even though most of us are grateful to be Americans, we must admit our country has flaws, some dating to before its founding.
Of course, I’m thinking about Columbus Day, which will be Monday.
We think of Columbus as the explorer who discovered America. He was not. America had been there all along, inhabited by tribes of people we now call Native Americans. In addition, vikings arrived 500 years before Columbus.
In 1492, when Columbus, who initially landed in the Bahamas, “discovered” America, there were 60 million Native Americans. Unfortunately, the last U.S. Census shows 5 milion, or less than 1% of the population, are Native American.
He unleashed cruelty on Native Americans — some were sold into slavery around the globe; some were used as slave labor in America; many were killed when they revolted, and their bodies were displayed in the streets as a warning to others.
The mere presence of Europeans in America was deadly because Native Americans had no immunity to diseases they carried, including smallpox, measles and influenza.
The impact of European and African settlers in the New World possibly killed as much as 90% of the native populations and was deadlier than the Black Death was in medieval Europe, research by the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation found.
Columbus Day wasn’t begun to honor Columbus.
In 1892, following a lynching in New Orleans where a mob had murdered 11 Italian immigrants, President Benjamin Harrison declared Columbus Day as a one-time national celebration. This was part of a larger effort to placate Italian Americans and ease diplomatic tensions with Italy, according to nationaltoday.com:
“During this celebration, politicians, poets, teachers and preachers began to spin the web of patriotism under the veil of Columbus. These rituals took themes such as citizenship boundaries and the importance of loyalty to the nation.” Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1968.
Many prefer to celebrate Indigenous People Day, which is a great idea, considering the disrespect and cruelty those people have endured when they were simply minding their own business.
It’s a good suggestion, and making suggestions is good. It’s a sharing of ideas and that contributes to our growth as individuals and as a country.
Nothing is perfect. The best way to deal with our failings is to admit to them, examine them and learn from them. Remember: When Columbus arrived in America, he thought he was in India.
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