there’s Columbus and then there’s Columbus

On the day this nation celebrates Columbus Day, i watched the televised parade in New York City with my mother. She likes parades. It seems that everybody’s Italian on Columbus Day (the way that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day). At least that’s what Major Bloomberg was heard to say.
Now, those of us who were taught the accurate version of history know that the Vikings actually discovered this land long before Columbus missed landing on the continental shores of what became America. What I didn’t know until I watched a Discovery Channel special that aired on the afternoon of Columbus Day, was that Christopher Columbus might not have been Italian at all. Chances are that he was the son of a Catalonian mariner/mercenery and his last name was really “Colom.”
Garrison Keillor in a Common Deams piece suggests because George W. Bush bears a great similarity to the real Christopher Columbus, we should change the focus of Columbus Day:
The following are excerpts; it’s worth it to link over and read the whole thing.

October 12th, the traditional Columbus Day, is a day to reflect on the nature of celebrity. Columbus was a pirate and tyrant who sailed off and bumped into the Bahamas, had no idea where he was, and to his dying day believed he had reached the Indies. By the time he arrived in the New World, America was old news to the Vikings. They already had that T-shirt…..
….The Vikings were not out to lord it over the Indians or bring democracy here or teach folks about Nordic gods. They were free spirits, sailors, explorers, so they left some carved stones here and there, relished the exhilaration of the voyage and the sight of new lands, and went home and composed sagas for the amusement of their friends and families. That arrogant fool Columbus, who demanded 10 percent of all the gold the Spanish stole in the New World, got the holiday, a town in Ohio and another in Georgia, a major river in the Northwest, a university in New York. But who cares? Scandinavians don’t…..
….. I propose that we change Columbus Day to Bush Day, a cautionary holiday, like Halloween, a day to meditate on the hazards of ambition. We could observe it by going through the basement and garage and throwing out stuff we don’t want or need. Also, by not mortgaging the house to pay for a vacation, and not yelling at the neighbors, and not assuming that the law is for other people.
A day to honor kindness, industriousness and modesty.

In that same issue of Common Dreams is a piece by Ted Rall that brutally describes the brutality of he Bush Regime. It’s not as clever as Keiller’s, but it’s an indictment worth reading.
It includes this powerful statement:

How did we get here? Good Germans–and many of them were decent, moral people–asked themselves the same thing. The answer is incrementalism, the tendency of radical change to manifest itself in bits and pieces. People who should have known better–journalists, Democrats, and Republicans who are more loyal to their country than their party–allowed Bush and his neofascist gangsters to hijack our republic and its values. They weren’t as bad as Bush. They just couldn’t see the big picture.

And it ends with:

It doesn’t matter how much food aid we ship to the victims of the next global natural disaster, or how diplomatic our next president is, or whether we come to regret what we have done in the name of law and order. Our laws permit kidnapping, torture and murder. Our laws deny access to the courts. The United States has ceded the moral high ground to its enemies.

We are done.

If these two articles made you really depressed, take a minute to read “What the Amish are Teaching America” by Sally Kohn, which ends with:

Our patterns of punishment and revenge are fundamentally at odds with the deeper values of common humanity that the tragic experience of the Amish are helping to reveal. Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done in life. Someone who cheats is not only a cheater. Someone who steals something is not only a thief. And someone who commits a murder is not only a murderer. The same is true of Charles Carl Roberts. We don’t yet know the details of the episode in his past for which, in his suicide note, he said he was seeking revenge. It may be a sad and sympathetic tale. It may not. Either way, there’s no excusing his actions. Whatever happened to Roberts in the past, taking the lives of others is never justified. But nothing Roberts has done changes the fact that he was a human being, like all of us. We all make mistakes. Roberts’ were considerably and egregiously larger than most. But the Amish in Nickel Mines seem to have been able to see past Roberts’ actions and recognize his humanity, sympathize with his family for their loss, and move forward with compassion not vengeful hate.

We’ve come to think that “an eye for an eye” is a natural, human reaction to violence. The Amish, who live a truly natural life apart from the influences of our violence-infused culture, are proving otherwise. If, as Gandhi said, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” then the Amish are providing the rest of us with an eye-opening lesson.

It is Friday the Thirteenth of October, and there’s two feet of snow in Buffalo.

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