Saturday, October 08, 2005

Michael: Columbus Day or Genocide Day?

As another Columbus day is upon us, a lot of people continue to wonder, with good cause, just what the heck this day is supposed to celebrate. Surely, as a culture, we must not continue to celebrate the voyages of Columbus? Many people are conflicted about, if not simply outraged by, celebrating our civilization's origin in the genocide of the native people who were previously here.

It is as if we all learned that our births were the result of the brutal rape of our mothers. You can't bring yourself to condemn the rape entirely -- without it you would not exist; but neither does it make one relish celebrating your birthday... or more aptly for this strained comparison, the day of your conception.

Even the Catholic Church, in whose name the Conquistadors pulled down the 'heathen' civilizations of the New World, eventually recognized the vast evil that had been done in its name. The great debate at Valladoilid between Las Casas and Sepulveda made manifest the moral cancer that was the whole project of colonization. Despite the fact that greed and inertia won the day in the end, we should not blind ourselves to the great wrong that our ancestors participated in, any more than we should ignore the history of slavery in the New World.

Perhaps it would be best to officially change 'Columbus Day' to 'Indigenous Peoples Day', as some would have it. But that would be to focus on the victim to the exclusion of the crime. It's like calling 'Pearl Harbor Day' 'U.S.S. Arizona Day'; it discards the context. 'Genocide Day' is a more fitting name for 'Columbus Day'. The day should be one of reflection upon the inestimable value that unbridled human greed and ambition can destroy, instead of a celebration of what wonders we have constructed on top of the mass grave that is the New World.

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