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Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.
Hey, folks, you don’t want to give your people the day off, your call. But spare us please a holieer-than-thou patting yourselves on the back about it. Jeez Louise….
As much as I enjoy getting days off (paid holidays, even moreso), yeah, celebrating Columbus is a really stupid reason to establish a federal holiday. He didn’t even *do* the thing that he gets celebrated for doing, since millions of people were already very much aware of the American continents when he “discovered” them.
In all reality, a humanist organization hardly wishes to be holier.
So… Should we celebrate Vespucci Day, instead?
And while millions of people were aware of their existence, this was the first time that Europeans noticed them.
And we in America consider *that* noteworthy because up until relatively recently, the European perspective was the only one we cared about.
Also, never mind the Vikings.
For all of you who don’t want to celebrate today:
forget Columbus, just say that you’re celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving!
Let’s not forget Christopher Columbus’s biggest contribution to us. Most folks who invent or discover anything name it after someone’s last name. Had Chris done this we would be known as “Vespuccians”. Chris had the foresight and taste to name the land after his hero’s first name, Amerigo Vespucci ! Consider “God bless Vespucci land”, see what I mean? Doesn’t have the same ring.
Good call. In fact, Wikipedia has a list of mostly valid reasons to celebrate any day you feel like.
Has anyone ever celebrated Columbus day? I haven’t.
Naah. Bartolome day: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/columbus_day
Pretty sure it’s more the celebration and whitewashing of a sociopathic asshole that upsets people. I have no problem with having a holiday in general, but I think the point is that we could pick much better people to base a holiday around than Christopher Columbus.
Woohoo! Cultural Imperialism and Smallpox Day!
My family goes around to all our neighbors and gives them blankets.
Exactly. Maybe the Knights of Columbus will hold a small rally here and there at a Columbus statue, and someone will give a brief speech few hear and none remember. Or perhaps the Sons of Italy will hold a members dinner. Most folks I know look on the day exactly as they do Labor Day, Presidents’ Day and MLK Day: a day off to get something done around the house, take the kids on a picnic, catch a movie, or veg out on the couch watching tv or curled up with a book. Not much celebrating going on at all. Just not something worth a whole lot of heartburning, seems to me.
Yeah, well, the problem with L’Anse aux Meadows [sp?] and other Norse probings and settlement attempts on the American coast is that the knowledge was lost when the settlemens failed. The “discovery” had no long term consequences on world history, which is absolutely not true of Columbus’ voyages, which spread the knowledge of the Americas all over Europe, Africa and Asia and had monumental consequeses [for better and worse]. Columbus is remembered because of the impact of his voyages on history. That’s why there’s a Columbus Day and not an Erik The Red Day. Seems fairly obvious to me.
Do Canadians celebrate it as a major holiday, as Thanksgiving is in the US? And is there a traditional meal associated with Canadian Thanksgiving [like Turkey for Thanksgiving in the US]?
…And influenza, and Diphtheria and Leprosy, and Malaria, and yes, the common cold. Of course, Columbus brought home Syphilis, but hey.
Columbus never set foot in the USA….
When I was a kid in the 50s, I think we even got school off on Columbus Day, which was made a federal holiday in 1937.
And yes, I distinctly recall learning in grade school: “In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety Two, Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue.”
While I’m sure it was well-meant, the idea of rebranding Columbus Day to celebrate Las Casas seems somewhat misguided. There have already been efforts to rebrand Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. In my opinion, that’s a more worthwhile cause. Rebranding Columbus Day to celebrate another white European man seems to overlook the agency of American Indians in resisting European imperialism.
That, and I’m uncomfortable with any attempts to “deify” Las Casas, particularly given that he promoted using African slaves early in his career. I give Las Casas credit for eventually realizing he was wrong, but I doubt that the fact that Las Casas later changed his mind would have really been much of a comfort to the Africans whose enslavement Las Casas had sanctioned.
This isn’t to say that Las Casas wasn’t an admirable figure in a lot of ways. He clearly was. I just don’t think that this reframing Columbus Day as Bartolomé de Las Casas Day is the best idea.
And yet you all take full advantage of what America has to offer. Symbolism over substance. It’s like movie stars who sleep outside in a box for one night to show they care about the homeless. The condescension and hypocrisy are laughable.
I don’t really understand why we bothered making Columbus Day a federal holiday. He really did not do anything to constitute celebration. He didn’t discover America, contrary to popular belief. People had been living there for *quite* a while during that time, and other explorers, such as the Vikings, had already reached the continent. He went on that expedition to try to establish a route to Asia, assumed he reached India, and proceeded to butcher, enslave and steal from the natives, and generally be a prick all around. Hell, he didn’t even “prove” the Earth was round (again, sadly, popular belief). That was established for quite some time already.
What should he REALLY be famous for? For being a murdering, enslaving, thieving and selfish prick. Which he was.
Too early. No nation states with the resources to explore, No ability to publish (except in the Sagas), some climate change – and Erik’s sister, Freydis.
So, when is Hui Shen Day?
You seem to be confusing Christopher Columbus with anything of importance. Other than being ‘first European’ (and not even that), CC had zero influence on the positive aspects of America. So one can rightly reject CC, and still be a full-blown patriot of the U.S.A. It may only be a gesture, but you have to do better to actually show condescension and hypocrisy. (Cite examples please.)
Coming up in the ’50s, I can tell you that my history texts were chuck full condescension and hypocrisy. Not so laughable now.
Happy Bartolomé Day, from The Caribbean.
To be fair, CC should be remembered as a man of his times: God, Gold and Glory, the Inquisition and the purification of Christianity, the Spanish Expulsion of its Jews… He obviously wasn’t a physical coward. The historical debate of CC and his legacy continues.
And yet you take full advantage of what Nazism gave the world. Without it, we’d have learned fewer lessons about humanity and not developed scientific know-how as quickly in order to defend ourselves. You only pay lip service to jet aircraft and wearing extra socks to Russia. The condescension and hypocrisy are laughable.
I’m not sure whether I should have laughed at that, but I did.
Genetic fallacy perhaps?
Yes, it’s a major holiday here, and we enjoy turkey, ham or seafood, depending on your cultural background and preference.
Ya, but it’s still not quite as insane as the US. e.g. Canada doesn’t take off the day after Thanksgiving as an additional recovery day. And most Canadians don’t pack the airports and roads to go visit each other. In other Provinces.
And Black Friday is like Boxing Day * American Consumerism.
Well it depends what province… I’m from Quebec and we’re just thankful for the day off!
Agreed, I just wanted to avoid the whole “What is Boxing Day?” discussion.
Does anyone really “Celebrate” Columbus day? I mean sure, some people get the day off and some stores have sales, but I’ve never really seen anyone celebrate it like they do other holidays.
This also true of Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day, and Presidents’ Day. All are uber-commercialized now. It’s the American Way.
That’s when we burn effigies of Mike Tyson, right?
True. But, by the current historical findings we have, he seems kinda like an asshole. And he shares a holiday that has equal recognition and praise to Martin Luther King Jr. Day. That’s something that I find ridiculous and insulting to his memory.
I dunno. These days, MLK gets a lot more deserved play than CC. And so far as I know, there are no sales to pervert MLK’s memory.
I would celebrate nearly anything Canadian. Some beautiful country, and fantastic people. I think the government puts valium in the water or something, I don’t think anything gets a Canadian’s panties in a twist. Except for hockey.
When was the last time you cracked open an history book? You have every right to be an uninformed idiot, but if you take that right to posting about historical facts and tie them with “taking advantage of what America has to offer” you are now abusing that right.
What did Columbus have to do with what “America has to offer”? I am italian born and raised but living in the USA for the past 30 years. If there is anyone here that should celebrate Chris should be me. Yet, since I do some reading on occasion, even I know that Columbus didn’t “discover” a damn thing (and didn’t think the world was flat either). There are pre columbian sites all over the continent as well as numerous references in antiquity to the lands we now call “America”.
Columbus did what he did for personal gain and as an afterthought to benefit the Spanish Crown. I really would love to hear you explain how that has anything to do with the USA in 2013 (or 1786 for that matter).
That he was a slaver is true, but my attitude is that everyone was a slaver back then. Other bear a much larger responsibility, starting with the modern day apologists (of which you may very well be one).
He was also a mass murderer, but he has to be put in the context of the times to properly judge him as a man. To white people of the time, native americans were an unwelcome surprise and not quite human anyway. Columbus was hardly the only one holding this view.
What I disagree with is not Columbus the man. There are plenty of bad guys in history books and by that standard he is certainly not one of the worse. But why the hell we give him an official holiday, even if one only a few people observe and a few old Italian guys in Brooklyn celebrate, that’s beyond me.
The other thing I can’t understand is why someone that obviously has at least amassed the skills to turn on and operate a computer, feed himself and wipe his own ass without help (presumably) doesn’t know this and posts such an idiocy on a public forum.
There was a time when teaching a distorted version of history was fashionable and you are probably a product of that era, as am I. But now we have information at our fingertips and there is no reason why someone would choose to abide by a completely debunked version of History where Columbus was pious “good guy” bringing Jesus to the savages and the founding fathers were infallible christian saints that could do no wrong.
I liked fables too once. Until I started going to school.
Memorial Day gets BBQs at least.
Progressives seem to have a convenient view of which slavers, murderers and thieves deserve their admiration. I saw images of that violent sociopath Che Guevara all over those Occupy derelict camps a couple years ago.
It’s not a ‘progressive’ thing. It’s a people thing.
Ayn Rand cultists do:
It is erstwhile Italian-American Day, like St. Patrick’s Day is for the Irish. There is usually a parade. EDIT: Not as much drinking.
A lot of people celebrate Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day, and Labor Day as something in the proper reverent context other than a sale or an excuse to stay home. Nobody celebrates Presidents’ Day and they shouldn’t.
It’s when you pack up the presents for the servants. Apparently, Brits and Canadians have servants. (Actually, they’re just well-dressed beavers but don’t tell them)
Shouldn’t celebrate the combined B’Days of Washington and Lincoln? I part with you there.
As a veteran, I observe Memorial Day, in the forlorn hope that someday, a Veterans’ Day will be unnecessary
I think Presidents’ Day should be something else. We already have Independence Day. I think car dealerships celebrate Presidents’ Day. Presidents’ Day reminds me of the Pledge of Allegiance at school – auto-pilot mythic nonsense. It’s a good opportunity to keep spreading myths about Washington and Lincoln. Just like Thanksgiving is about the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock and the pilgrims settling to a feast hosted by the local Indian tribes.
I celebrate International Firefighters’ Day on May 4.
They’re all mythical, Kodie, after some period of time. But myths or no, we have plenty of actual truths of both men to keep us company as well. And who doesn’t like the idea of a Fiirefighters’ Day?
And the amateur philosopher is still mooned over by self-identified necrophiles like Paul Ryan, the man who would be VP. And then there is Rand…
With Lincoln, it was vampires. They even made a movie about that – right?
Manylatin American countries turned October 12 unto Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Las Casas might be the perfect candidate for a rebranding, *because* of his history. If his life story is one of “I did terrible things for terrible reasons, realized the error of my ways, and spent the rest of my life trying to make up for the terrible things I did earlier,” then renaming Columbus day as Las Casas day would mesh well with that kind of narrative.
Do you have literally no other medium other than this blog on which to sharpen your ax collection? You consistently bringing them here to grind is getting really tiresome.
That’s only because his day is at the wrong time of the year for a sale. People are starting to think about Christmas, and figuring out what clothes they need for winter right about now, so it’s conveniently a good time for a sale. On the other hand MLK day is in January, winter still has a good hold on, everyone is all gifted out after Christmas and there are no major gift giving holidays coming up except for Valentines day, which doesn’t mesh well with MLK and lets face it, only Hallmark, jewelers, florists and chocolatiers do well for Valentines day.
I think that’s when the stores start to bring out bathing suits.
I once tried my hand at making curry in honor of the “great explorer” who couldn’t figure out what continent he was on and thought he was in India. But nowadays I just do Thanksgiving dinner with my Canadian wife.
There is more to it… brutal spread of christianity is one among them. Yet a large population in those countries remain christians despite its forceful imposition on their ancestors. At the same time, let us not forget Columbus’ supposition (that Indies can be reached by sailing west ) and the efforts to prove it.
Oh, I know. I couldn’t try to list everything bad that happened as a result of Columbus’ accidental running aground in the Caribbean, that would make the name of the holiday too long. I just picked a highlight.
It’s apparently a big deal for Italian-American’s in NY/NJ. They have big parades and such.
Beer, that’s one of our hot button issues. Don’t insult our beer…like ever.
Ours was just a woodchuck, but we were poor.
American beer is like making love in a canoe.
I knew columbus was a bad story. I didn’t know that he was a walking horror show. Thanks for the link.
I’d love to convert one of these weird federal not holidays to Dragon Day.
Better if you have good balance, a flexible partner and don’t mind getting wet?
“Brits have beavers?” he asked, and then preemptively facepalmed as the cavalcade of likely responses trampled its way through his thoughts.
Fucking close to water.
(and I don’t even drink beer, but when I did, it was in Canada, and I thought the joke was amusing)
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