Transform Columbus Day
September 9, 2001 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Transform Columbus Day is a Denver-based alliance promising massive, vigorous opposition to a parade honoring history's most genocidal slave-trader.
posted by xowie (27 comments total)
I've always wondered why we celebrated Columbus Day in this country, as it is my understanding that he never even made it ashore on any land that is now U.S. soil. And arguably, he does not represent any of the ideals that America was founded on, (although ancestors of African slaves or Native Americans might disagree).

He was an agent of a European power seeking to exploit the New World and its peoples for power and glory and it is this exploitation that the (white) colonists successfully fought against in the Revolutionary War.

Not to mention that the Vikings beat him to North America by several centuries.

I say rename the holiday in honor of something else, hell, move it to July to celebrate the Moon landing.

Neil Armstrong that's more appropriate for the 21st century.
posted by thewittyname at 12:50 PM on September 9, 2001

Why I celebrate Columbus Day proudly
posted by dagny at 12:55 PM on September 9, 2001

From dagny's link:

We must recognize that everyone is a sovereign entity, with the power of choice and independent judgment. That is the ultimate value of Western civilization, and it should be proudly proclaimed.

But don't you see dagny, Columbus was not, and never will be the human embodiment of what Objectivists think of as the "ultimate value of Western civilization."

Columbus was a drunk, a plunderer, a murderer and a rapist. He was obsessed by the pursuit of power, and its physical manifestation: gold. You might dismiss this as "revisionism" but it is an accurate characterization of most European explorers, especially in the 15th and 16th centuries. (Some might say this is the true nature of all Western Civilization, but I would disagree.)

I agree with you somewhat dagny: the culture and achievements of the West should be celebrated...but not Columbus.
posted by thewittyname at 1:07 PM on September 9, 2001

Oh man, next you'll be coming after Stalin Day. I needs me my holidays, dammit!
posted by NortonDC at 1:30 PM on September 9, 2001

Hey, thewittyname, I'm all for changing the name to Neil Armstrong Day. That's actually a very good suggestion!
posted by dagny at 1:32 PM on September 9, 2001

I'm all for changing the name to Neil Armstrong Day.

And I assume that the state-funded Apollo missions are also a demonstration of Randian individualism, given that Armstrong built the rocket from scratch out of his own privately-earned income and flew it solo to the moon? Rearden Steel, eat your fucking heart out...
posted by holgate at 1:39 PM on September 9, 2001

Noone has mentioned that without Columbus most of you wouldn't be sitting where you are. Without his discovery (rediscovery) of America there wouldn't be a metafilter... dare I say not even an Internet? America's isolation provided the political security to allow many innovations to take place. Without out Columbus you wouldn't have any of all the other fun holidays like MLK Day or President's Day.
posted by geoff. at 1:41 PM on September 9, 2001

Yeah geoff., the world needs more sophistry. Live it up!
posted by NortonDC at 2:10 PM on September 9, 2001

Without his discovery (rediscovery) of America

Recent evidence suggests that 14th century Viking colonies extended as far inland as Minnesota. The "discoveries" of Columbus are best described in Columbus, The Indians, and Human Progress by Howard Zinn.
posted by xowie at 2:44 PM on September 9, 2001

also from dagny's link:

Prior to 1492, what is now the United States was sparsely inhabited, unused, and undeveloped. The inhabitants were primarily hunter-gatherers, wandering across the land, living from hand-to-mouth and from day-to-day. There was virtually no change, no growth for thousands of years.

so... this was a bad thing?

as for geoff:

"Noone has mentioned that without Columbus most of you wouldn't be sitting where you are. "

Well, we probably would, we just would be speaking norse or mongolian.

and again:

so... this is a bad thing?
posted by jcterminal at 3:07 PM on September 9, 2001

Norton: I admit that I've also been guilty of this in the past, but your comment to geof was unaccompanied by any reasoning, evidence, or even explanation. Metafilter is about the intelligent and respectful discussion of ideas, and your post added nothing to the discussion. Therefore, IMHO, it shouldn't have been made. (I apoligize for doing this publically. I'm just trying to help maintain what I see as the tradition of quality here.)
posted by gd779 at 3:25 PM on September 9, 2001

Err, speaking of quality... make that "apologize" and "publicly". How embarrassing.

*hides face in shame*
posted by gd779 at 3:27 PM on September 9, 2001

gd779, I think the burden of proof rests with geoff.; he makes the statement that without Columbus none of our modern world would be possible. While it would no doubt be vastly different, he doesn't offer any proof (and what proof could ever exist?) that the world would be worse if Columbus never made that trip. Indeed, quite possibly it might be better- imagine if we nipped the slavery issue in the bud when this country was first "discovered" by someone not so genocidal!

Since geoff.'s reasoning was wildly speculative and specious, setting up the straw man argument of "you wouldn't be here" in response to "Columbus was a bad man", and considering xowie and jcterminal gave some more reasoned thoughts (and in xowie's case actually linked further information in support) as to why it wouldn't necessarily have been bad if someone other than Columbus made that fateful trip, I think the charge of sophistry is pretty well based. Of course, maybe I misunderstanding what sophistry means...
posted by hincandenza at 4:07 PM on September 9, 2001

hicandenza: eh. I understood sophistry to be not just fallacious argumentation, but rather deliberately taking any position in a debate, either for profit or (presumably) to infuriate others; in other words, I thought Norton was calling geof a troll. A quick trip to cured me of my misunderstanding.

Sorry for the confusion; comment withdrawn. Carry on.
posted by gd779 at 4:38 PM on September 9, 2001

Actually, I take that back. I still think that if you're going to call an argument fallacious, you ought to explain why. Otherwise, discussions degenerate into infuriating "you're wrong! No, you're wrong!" sort of arguments, which is neither entertaining nor particularly helpful. Besides, how is geoff supposed to respond to Norton's objections? By repeating every element of his post? Not that I think there was much there in the first place (sorry geof), but it's the principle of the thing.

I guess an unsubstantiated statement like that looks to me almost like a personal attack trying to hide behind the presumption of logic, rather than a legitimate attempt at discourse.

Or maybe I'm just wound too tightly. Either way...
posted by gd779 at 4:54 PM on September 9, 2001

Agreed.He was a prick. Like Jefferson et al. Let's move back to Europe and show him. Ok. we don't like the parade in his "honor." But whose idea was this parade to begin with? we don't have them around my area. Let's have counter parades, honoring Erickson or whoever. Or how about no parades at all?
posted by Postroad at 5:06 PM on September 9, 2001

Armstrong Day . . . how silly. Everyone knows that Lucia Pamela was on the moon before him.

As a work of fiction, I quite liked Orson Scott Card's Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus.
posted by D.C. at 5:16 PM on September 9, 2001

gd779: I guess the difference is that geoff.'s post made broad unsubstantiated claims while NDC criticized geoff as one who was making a broad unsubstantiated claims without, uh, substantiating that claim. While NDC should have elaborated as to why it was sophistry, his criticism was on a different level of argumentation than geoff.'s. It's kinda like the difference between double-posting and calling out someone for their double-post: the latter is a meta-comment (all too appropriate for metafilter) that should generally be backed up but doesn't operate at the same "level" of argument as the double-post itself. Does that make any sense to anyone but me? :)

Thanks for getting my back, D.C.- I'd meant to bring up Pastwatch but forgot about it while typing madly away in my rant on sophistry. Card's a clever writer that way, drawing out moral issues with colorful storytelling. Pastwatch was one of his better books of late, since he's been putting out some real crap lately.*

* Note: my claim that Card is putting out crap lately will not be substantiated- it's pure sophistry. :)
posted by hincandenza at 5:45 PM on September 9, 2001

wow... I really didn't expect my comment to be the heart of such conterversy. All I was trying to say was that regardless the fact of whom Columbus was, him going to America was as important as the Rennaisance. This is the best link I can find, the friendly local college library would have primary sources better then anything on the internet.
posted by geoff. at 6:06 PM on September 9, 2001

I, too, misused "sophistry." My intention was to draw attention to using the ends to justify the means. With that comment, I failed.

That failure means that my comment may be reasonably interpretted as carrying a judgement upon geoff.'s honesty, for which I apologize. Had I been more accurate, I might have attained my goal of criticizing geoff.'s comment, not geoff.
posted by NortonDC at 7:18 PM on September 9, 2001

> Why I celebrate Columbus Day proudly

Yick. An Ayn Rand link. And I almost clicked it.

But Rand is appropriate in this discussion because, to understand Columbus, just follow the money. He sailed west in search of promotion and riches, and if Columbus hadn't been (but you couldn't miss) the first to bang into the New World, some other European pirate backed by some other European monarch would have been.

And Armstrong was just a test pilot, one of those fearless (i.e., defective) guys who, when they aren't so lucky, become famous mainly for bar brawls and dented fenders. There was a line of men ready and able to take Armstrong's place on that flight. And when he got to the moon, though he had had ages to rehearse his only rehearsed line, he screwed it up. What an embarrassment.
posted by pracowity at 2:08 AM on September 10, 2001

Ceiriog presumably being otherwise engaged, perhaps I should mentin that the Welsh got there first.

(Well obviously, the Native Americans got there first...)
posted by Grangousier at 3:12 AM on September 10, 2001

And from the Randie's thing:

Columbus brought America to the attention of the civilized world, i.e., to the growing, scientific civilizations of Western Europe

Would I be right in thinking that Europe wasn't especially scientific in the late Fifteenth Century, science being more of a Seventeenth Century and later sort of thing? Not that the Randies would ever historical fact get in the way of a bit of objective thinking. Lordy no.

(I'm certainly unwilling to let fact get in the way of a Snarky comment about the Randies, but I think I'm closer to right on this one.)

In fact, at that time, the "Civilised World" might more constructively be thought of as the Middle and Far East...

posted by Grangousier at 3:20 AM on September 10, 2001

Dang, Grangousier, that's my job. ;-)

More on the myth of Madoc.
posted by ceiriog at 3:42 AM on September 10, 2001

Prior to 1492, what is now the United States was sparsely inhabited, unused, and undeveloped. The inhabitants were primarily hunter-gatherers, wandering across the land, living from hand-to-mouth and from day-to-day. There was virtually no change, no growth for thousands of years.

This is the false "pioneer myth." Natives on the American east coast were agriculturalists. The land was relatively empty because European diseases had already wiped out a very large percentage of the population. There was a great deal of change and growth in all of the Native cultures of the Americas.
posted by tranquileye at 5:03 AM on September 10, 2001

"Randies". lol. I love the assumption made in that Rand link - this land mass (N. America) and its indigineous people was totally worthless until the attention of the civilized world. Hi ho.
posted by skechada at 11:28 AM on September 10, 2001

Even assuming that Columbus discovered something for the good of somebody, eight million native people died under his administration. Why celebrate a guy like that? Does he rank with Washington, Lincoln and King? Please. (p.s. - can I point out that this was my first MeFi post? OK.)
posted by xowie at 1:23 PM on September 10, 2001

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