Commentary: Let’s celebrate Columbus Day

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The Edmonds City Council passed a resolution making October 9th both Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day.  Per the resolution, the naming of Indigenous People’s Day was to provide “a more balanced representation of our region’s cultural history.

As history shows, Christopher Columbus wasn’t the greatest person. He collected slaves and tortured natives. Naming a day after Columbus is an insult to native peoples… even though Columbus never made it to this region. So why do we celebrate a guy who never set foot in our country in the first place? The reason is ironic. Columbus Day was declared a federal holiday to provide “a more balanced representation of our region’s cultural history“ (as the Edmonds City Council would have put it).

For most of our history the seat of power in this country was Protestant. Anti-Catholicism was a significant component in the Mexican-American War. People argued that Irish immigrants couldn’t be Americans at all because they were loyal to the Vatican, which was a foreign state. A careful reading of our history will show that the Protestant Reformation was tinder for the Civil War and the movement was more about fighting southern Catholics for the sake of fighting Catholics (i.e. Protestant crusade) than being against slavery. Eventually, those in power had to recognize that Catholics were Americans too, and that they voted.

Franklin D Roosevelt declared Columbus Day as a way to “virtue signal” to Catholics – and it paid off in the form of votes. What made John F. Kennedy’s election most remarkable was that it served as a symbolic end to znti-Catholicism in the United States. Kennedy’s presidency, itself, was an accomplishment that brought the nation together and, as president, he didn’t ruin relations between people of different faiths by wearing his religion (Catholic) on his sleeve.

Here are some comments on last week’s article, “City Council: In Edmonds, it will be Indigenous Peoples Day, not Columbus Day“:

Thomas Barnes: “Columbus was a great explorer no different than present day astronauts. He should be honored as such.

Laura Johnson: “Have present day astronauts tortured, murdered and enslaved?” 

Me: “No, but plenty of ancient astronauts did.” 

I’m making an argument for moral relativity. Yes, Columbus was a cruel human, but he was also a brilliant explorer and navigator.  Everyone was cruel in the 15th Century, but there were few brilliant explorers. The Americas were no different. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker [2007] writes, “quantitative body counts — such as the proportion of prehistoric skeletons with ax marks and embedded arrowheads or the proportion of men in a contemporary foraging tribe who die at the hands of other men — suggest that pre-state societies were far more violent than our own.”

Pinker is writing about what is commonly known in academia as the Myth of the Nobel Savage. Washington State University archaeologist Tim Kohler has studied our cultural region for decades and has put forward the argument that the most violent time in American history may have been before white settlers ever arrived. His studies have focused on quantitative analysis of remains, cataloging head trauma and weapon marks on bones, and has concluded that violence was an integral part of Native American life. My lay understanding is that hunter-gatherers hunt and gather until the area is exploited, and then they move to a new area. Many times where they choose to move is already occupied by other hunter-gathers, and that creates conflict and all of the aforementioned atrocities that come with conflict.

Ironically, portraying Native Americans in the 15th century as simple traders who lived in harmony with the environment and their neighbors is a racial stereotype. A big difference in what we know about the ill deeds of Christopher Columbus over the ill deeds of other peoples from that time is that Columbus wrote his down, but we are left to sift through the remains of the victims of the latter.

History is full of some pretty ugly stuff by contemporary standards, and it’s awkward when we mix history and political convenience. People’s feeling get hurt when you ham-hand this stuff. What’s divisive is when politicians stand up for one group of people by #TakingTheKnee on another group. The Edmonds City Council forgot about Catholics when they chose to rename a holiday which was intended to remind people about Catholics. A different date could have been chosen as a good compromise, but instead Indigenous People’s Day is the same day as Columbus Day, which implicitly means “chose one.” That’s divisive. The City Council should stay out of all this. It’s not in their charter.

By Matt Richardson, Edmonds

14 COMMENTS

  1. Very well stated and also true. Many, many times in my life I have remembered this saying from my Childhood Friends; “Truth hurts huh?” Yes. It really does.

  2. The internet listings of “holidays” show that Columbus Day is listed as a Federal Holiday except for a listing of states that have decided to re-designate the day to indigenous people as State Observance. There are more and more “holidays” created. Not many of them are in observance of anything I personally would celebrate. Those I choose to ignore. What seems odd to me is that “Columbus Day” is a Federal Holiday. As stated above, Columbus did not touch foot on what is now American soil. Why then should we as a Nation celebrate a day that honors him/his accomplishments.
    There is no reason that a “holiday” can not be overturned if it is not or is no longer relevant to deem it a Federal Holiday.

  3. Matthew Richardson, While you present an interesting point of view, you appear to contradict yourself. In this commentary, you write:

    “Franklin D Roosevelt declared Columbus Day as a way to “virtue signal” to Catholics – and it paid off in the form of votes.” AND “The Edmonds City Council forgot about Catholics when they chose to rename a holiday which was intended to remind people about Catholics.”

    However, your commentary was in response to this article: http://myedmondsnews.com/2017/09/city-council-edmonds-will-indigenous-peoples-day-not-columbus-day/#comment-115732, in which you commented:

    “This is just ineffective Virtue Signalling……Virtue Signaling is a new pervasive form of Jim Crow that exacerbates a stratified society. Good Job Edmonds City Council.” AND “Could someone explain how naming things after people contributes to actual positive change? Jews, Japanese and Gays were all treated horribly, but were never patronized or placated with named holidays. All three of those aforementioned groups have higher income, longer life and more social stability than the average white man. Why?”

    I am now left wondering if you are against the of naming holidays after specific people or groups of people, or are you supportive of it if it is representative of your particular culture?

    • Im am not for naming holidays, generally, but its not me who decides. The reason becomes apparent when one group is offended by the holiday of another group, especially when offense is intended (which it was). Satanists are errecting nativity scenes in public-owned spaces and its in their right to do so because Christians do it. Its best to leave culture, art, religion, history in the private sphere. If a can of worms is already opened, it would have been best not to open another can. The Edmonds City Council literally called a 15th Century Catholic hero a murderer, then placated local Salish tribes in the same breath. Wow. These types of political maneuvers are how racial and cultural animocity is created. The Knights of Columbus worked hard and deserved Columbus day. Columbus Day has nothing to do with Salish people.

  4. Present day astronauts, far as we know, have yet to encounter any life forns to torture, murder, and enslave. Give them time._._

  5. If you’re for or against Columbus Day (if you have an opinion either way), read the resolution passed by the Edmonds City Council here:
    http://myedmondsnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Resolution-with-Nelson-amendments.pdf

    Then watch this video of a vandal smashing a 200+ year old Columbus monument:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFSW0id36FA

    Same nonsense right? The City Council even managed to connect Columbus to Salish Natives, which is a big stretch. Columbus, Salish, Genocide? Anyone got a dictionary? Because of tacit support from political leaders, cities across the country are posting guards at Columbus monuments because crazies will smash them like the Taliban. There is a 7-ton statue of Vladimir Lenin in downtown Seattle that no one is protesting, no politician will condemn.

    Also read the comments in this other thread: http://myedmondsnews.com/2017/09/city-council-edmonds-will-indigenous-peoples-day-not-columbus-day/

  6. Well, that Lenin statue has an interesting history, and you might do well to learn about how that came to be in Fremont. (Google it)
    It was a parody done by a dissident artist. And there have been protestors who were not familiar with that history. And for those of us who are natively “weird and clueless” least we know that much. It’s a joke.

    • Mr Talmadge, You’re apparently for Lenin for artistic reasons and against Columbus and for moral reasons? Not a good point to make 🙁

      When I was more involved in politics, I had to plan to actually buy the Lenin statue in Seattle (it’s for sale). The tacit plan was to buy it and put a plaque on it honoring the actual victims of Lenin and the state he designed (victims of actual genocide). And maybe if someone chose to paint his hands red (which happens), then we’d probably keep them red. The statue with a memorial plaque on it could serve as a constant reminder against Marxism in a city that is starting to lean socialist (communist-lite). To me, the statue of Vladimir Lenin is an opportunity for discussion, to point out how extremists are tearing down Christopher Columbus and Free Speech on campuses, but none of the same extremists seem to dislike the statue. Ultimately, gulags are not a joke and not funny.

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