Today is Columbus Day, a day celebrated by a day off from school and a handful of retail sales, but little beyond that, causing us to wonder if it is time to rethink the “holiday.”
The original aim, of course, was to “celebrate the courage of Columbus and other explorers who courageously set out into the unknown and began the process of introducing western civilization to this new part of the world,” as writer David Tucker put it.
And that’s certainly something to celebrate.
But we have also learned more about the consequences of his actions.
Tucker again: “We think now of the extraordinary presumption of sticking a flag in someone else’s land and calling it yours. We think more darkly of how European diseases more than decimated the native peoples of the Americas and how poorly the early explorers - Columbus included - treated the native Americans. And we think most darkly of the stain of the slave trade that followed European contact with what was only to the Europeans a ‘new world.’”
Those were different times, of course, with very different values.
Fortunately, one of the long-term consequences of Columbus’ actions was the establishment of a country where “all men are created equal,” a concept previously unheard of in the world, and where all of us have the right to live in freedom.
We continue to live out these words imperfectly as we strive toward a better understanding of them. So it only makes sense that we should encourage our children to explore these New World values more deeply - in the classroom, rather than at the mall.