Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Genocide Day

It's been a while since my last post, and I have a number of half-written, half-baked ideas floating around ye ol' drafts folder. But instead of finishing one of those, I wanted to speak out about something: Columbus Day. It's a federally recognized holiday in which the federal government and many other businesses take off, school districts around the country are closed, and about which children are taught about the "discovery" of America by Europeans.

Growing up, my school district never got the day off; perhaps this was a political decision, as we were more liberal than most. Perhaps it was just logistical, giving us that day somewhere else like after Thanksgiving. But yet, I still learned "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue" and the story of the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María. It was the cookie-cutter history that every other school child learned, and has learned since.

Yet having a day devoted to a man who was, to be frank, not very nice and was the poster child for the near annihilation of the native peoples of two continents never sat well with me, even as a child. I guess my liberal roots sprouted early in life. On the scale of human history, I sympathize more with the Lakota, Arapaho, and Cheyenne than with Custer.

In college, I made a conscious, somewhat tongue in cheek, decision to refer to Columbus Day as "Genocide Day." It was supposed to be a humorous and not very serious declaration. This year, I'm continuing with that, but making it more serious.

So this year, and every year from now, I'm going to celebrate Columbus Day as "Genocide Remembrance Day" and take a few moments to think about all those who have been victims of genocide throughout history, and even today. And I will start with the American Indians, who really, are overlooked, marginalized, and not even thought of on this day.

I think when I get home, I'll pick up my copy of Custer Died For Your Sins by Vine Deloria, Jr.

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