Happy Columbus Day? HAPPY COLUMBUS DAY?! How DARE you insult my 21st century morality and perspective by telling me to celebrate the arrival of an invader, conqueror, and thief!
Okay, wait. You mean Columbus wasn't out to steal from people? You mean Columbus didn't know he was carrying deadly illnesses to a people who had not yet built an immunity to it? You mean Columbus didn't realize that he was upsetting a way of life that had been in practice for hundreds of years? You mean that he might have actually thought that he was HELPING PEOPLE? What the-
I love history, and I have studied it in depth. My knowledge is not perfect, but I am passionate about the subject. One thing I've learned from my studies is that you cannot take the narrative as fact. You cannot only believe what you read in your 5th grade textbook. It has been dumbed down, and is typically rampantly biased either to the left or the right. As a student of history, you are a seeker of truth. You are looking for the answers to questions people have. Of course, history is a social science, and you have an issue called "perspective." Two people who witness the same event may recount it in completely different ways. The people hearing those retellings have their own beliefs through which the facts are filtered once again. Today, we try to judge historical players by our own code of morality. Is this fair? I want to write a little about Columbus Day.
Imagine landing on an alien planet similar to Earth when you didn't know you were going there. The inhabitants look different, speak a different language, and have a completely different lifestyle. You try to trade supplies with them, and they willingly give you diamonds and Chipotle burritos for raisins and pony beads. You can't believe your luck - these people are so kind! They seem to live in a way that would be considered poverty where you are from. You try to teach them how to build roads and install water pipes. You don't stop to think that your descendants will use this exchange to lambaste you for years to come.
I personally get offended when people speak of immigrants to the United States as "evil thieves". I understand the point that a way of life was terribly and cruelly disrupted. It makes me grieve to think of those who suffered injustices. Yet, I also have the opinion that the time has gone. Why should I feel guilty for the actions of people who lived hundreds of years before me? Why should I feel that I am a visitor or invader in my homeland? My literal ancestors came here in the 1600s to flee religious persecution and economic hardship, not greed. I had grandfathers who fought in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the World Wars. My own father served his country for 18 years as a federal official. My ancestors struggled through the Great Depression, toiled across the plains, and poured their blood, sweat, and tears into farms and businesses in Virginia, Ohio, Iowa, Utah, and Illinois. This is MY country. My forefathers earned the right and have given me the privilege to say those four words. I am hurt when people try to tell me otherwise. Also, what does this say about more recent immigrants? Are they not a true part of this country? Of course they are. We thank everyone for their contributions to our country.
If you've studied history, you understand that it tells a story of a constant exchange of land and power among rulers, peoples, and empires. Egypt has never been purely "Egyptian." The land has belonged to countless empires and peoples. What even is "pure Egyptian?" Shouldn't it just be someone who lives, works, loves, and dies there?
I belong to this land. I am grateful everyday for that fact. I rejoice in its triumphs and mourn its sorrows. May we all remember our own heritage today in a way that would make our ancestors proud that we carry their name.
I am proud to be an American. I am proud to be a true American, not a German-American, or Anglo-American, or Euro-American or whatever name society might choose to give me.
God bless America, and everyone in her.