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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How We Celebrated Columbus Day Indicates Whether We Support The Capitol

A new war is being waged around this time of year. The war is over what we should call Columbus Day. Should we stick with the traditional designation honoring Columbus, or should we rename the day 'Indigenous People's Day' in honor of the people who suffered from his adventures?

Those who look to Columbus as a source of pride either have been ignorant of Columbus's history with indigenous people who came with the land he discovered or have minimized that history in one way or another. What makes Columbus Day important for such people is that they have a reason to celebrate themselves. On the other hand, those who want to rename the holiday in memory of the indigenous people who suffered at the hands of the Europeans who came to this continent want to shine a brighter light on Columbus' past sins for all to see.

Which side people take in what to call Columbus Day partially falls along racial lines. I say partially because while I cannot think of why anyone who come from indigenous tribes would celebrate Columbus Day, there are those with European ancestry who no longer have the stomach to do so. They have read too much history to celebrate what Columbus did with a clear conscience.

And so we have the divide between those who look at Columbus from the desire to both feel proud and enjoy our current way of life and those whose consciences prevent from feeling such pride and enjoyment. With Columbus started the ethnic cleansing of indigenous people from the land. That ethnic cleansing is often regarded as a necessary evil for progress to take place by some while others minimize it by saying some ethnic cleansing was a fixed cost because of the practices of other tribes back then. In either case, these people look at what Columbus did from the perspective of those who enjoy life in the Capitol--to use a reference from the movie The Hunger Games. After all, life in the Capitol is about pleasure and escapism. Thus there is no room for any dissonance that could come from the pangs of one's conscience when the realization that much of what we have today is the result man's inhumanity to man. For the significance of our riches lies not just in our pleasure, but in what we think reveal about ourselves and our character.

On the other hand, those who want to change the name of Columbus Day are trying to understand what Columbus did from the perspective of those who lived in the Districts. In the movie The Hunger Games, the purpose of the Districts was to both warehouse 'surplus people,' as some on the Left have called them, and to support the way of life of those in the Capitol. From the start, Columbus viewed the indigenous people of the islands he discovered as objects to be used to enrich himself and the royal family of Spain.

In addition, those who want to change the name of the holiday not only want to see history from the view of the Districts, they can see the continuity between the past and the present. Do we still have a Capitol and do the Districts still exist? Does that Capitol still thrive on exploitation? The last question is the question that those who live in the Capitol pretend not to hear. For it is one thing to live off of past exploitation; there is no urgency to change because of crimes that are dead. But if the exploitation still lives, then enjoyment of life luxuries and what the Bible calls 'the pride of life' becomes more stressful. The stress comes from the guilt we experience when enjoying life's luxuries.

This transition from the past to the present is an important one. Why? Because though we can't change the past, we can change the present.  And since the distance of time helps us become more objective when judging the past, we can use the past to more clearly see what we are doing in the present. 


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