So, today is Columbus Day here in the U.S., also known as Dia de la Hispanidad in Spain. It is probably called any number of other names in other countries, but I'll leave some sense of mystery to this post - if you want to know badly enough I suggest you check out Wikipedia. Anyway, I was thinking on my drive in this morning how we here in the U.S. are quick to adopt a holiday if it means a day off, but we're not so quick to actually take note of the meaning of the holiday or hear the rest of the story aside from whatever great, noble action prompted recognition in the first place.
The primary reason for my dwelling on this topic this morning was because I was tired of listening to the news (primary topics being the earthquake in Pakistan/Kashmir/India, upcoming elections in Iraq, and the increase in cosmetic surgeries in Baghdad). In the traffic report they mentioned that certain streets in Chicago were going to be closed for the Italian heritage celebration parade. For whatever reason, this stimulated my analytical grey cells into action.
Why would Italian heritage be celebrated on Columbus Day? Because Columbus was Italian? Well that's great and all, but unless I have a faulty memory, the Italians gave ol' Chris the boot and told him to find financing elsewhere for his adventure cruise. Of course, that still doesn't explain why the Spaniards celebrate Hispanic heritage day - Cristobol Colon (as he is referred to in castellano) was an Italian, after all. I guess they have more of a claim than the Italians to a holiday since they actually ponied up the cash for the sake of exploration, but still, that's not the whole story. We all know how it ended up - Columbus made it to North America bringing diseases and taking home gold, jewels and coffee, effectively raping and pillaging like some kind of crazy pirate (ok, perhaps I'm engaging in a little bit of revisionist history, but you get the general idea).
So here we have a guy who had to beg, borrow and steal to get ships and supplies (because people of his own heritage wouldn't fund him) who sailed across the pond to rape, pillage and plunder for the benefit of the Spanish empire. Forgive me, but I'm not seeing a whole lot here to celebrate or be proud of. I know there are some out there that will pipe up with the nationalist party-line crap of 'yeah, but he discovered AMERICA, man, the greatest country on the planet!'. I can't argue with zealots or ignoramouses, so therefore, I refer those who wish to engage in that controversy to Benjamin Walker's Theory of Everything program, Broadcast #26, American Exceptionalism.
I'm getting that feeling like I have rambled on much too long on something that really doesn't merit quite so much attention. Suffice it to say that I'm grateful for the benefits I have for being a citizen of the United States, I think Italian people are great and they should be proud of their heritage, Hispanic people are great and they should be proud of their heritage, and while all of us deserve more time off during the work week, probably none of us deserves an actual holiday.
That is, until it's Shark Recognition Day...I'll be the first one to lead the parade!