Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day

"In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." It was a significant accomplishment. With the technology available to Renaissance Europeans, crossing any wide stretch of water was incredibly risky.

It's funny though, that we say Columbus "discovered" the Americas when there were already tens of millions of people living there. That's not to diminish the accomplishment. We should acknowledge and even celebrate the flourishing of discovery and innovation that took place in Europe at that time, and the immense courage and talent it took to explore the unknown.

But while we commemorate the achievement of a great European explorer and his crew, we have to break our silence about the achievements of the civilizations and cultures that had already existed on the American continents for thousands of years. Not to mention the history of war, exploitation, resettlement, disenfranchisement, forced assimilation, and discrimination.

Sometimes people get angry if they hear anything good about the bad guy, or anything bad about the good guy. But if history is motivated by a contemporary agenda, whether a conservative or a radical one, it's compromised. History is simply about learning from the past. It's up to us to apply the lessons in the light of reason and human decency.
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