Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hello, sailor, allow me to accuse you of crimes against humanity

Yesterday was Columbus Day.  Personally, I like the day.  For starters, it's a holiday, so we got out of school for the day, back when I was an undedicated scholar.  Second, I celebrate Cristoforo Colombo's error of navigation, because, had he not stumbled upon these lands in his quest for the Western Passage to China, my family would not exist as it does, and I'm very proud of my oh-so-American heritage.  My recent roots dig in earth both European and North American.

Without Ferdinand and Isabella taking a gamble on a crazy Genoan, Europe would not have developed a "safety valve" for their populations during times of radical change, and, likely, my German, British, and other ancestors would have had no way to escape inevitable poverty and probable war, famine and death... Opening up the Western Hemisphere, initially for trade, gave hope to many.  Had they not come here, they'd have never met the North American family eventually wedded to theirs.  Ergo, an incompetent navigator/captain/businessman helped merge both elements of my heritage into one, bringing me into existence. For all my faults, I'm not inclined to gripe about that.  In fact, like many Americans, I celebrate the coming together in me, and in others I love and respect, of many different cultures and gene pools.  Grazie, Signor Colombo!

I understand those who mourn the passing of the nomadic tribes' ways of life, and I sympathize, to some extent, with those who see the settlers as land-grabbers who had no regard for the indigenous peoples whose land this had been.  Unfortunately, many of those who settled here from foreign lands had little or no choice.  Some came because there was no future for them in their homelands, others were literally given no choice by their home governments, being deported for petty crimes or debts, and some were brought by simpler accidents of fate.  In other words, they, too, were pushed out from their native lands.  That sort of thing has been going on since Cain was forced to move to the land of Nod, or, for those who are less biblically-inclined, since modern man met Neanderthal.  Why else would this continent have been settled, in earlier times, by Asians crossing the land bridge?

I also want these modern complainers to take into account that, in the days of the first settlers -- and even, up into the days of Hollywood's glory -- most of the Injuns, as they were called back then, were viewed as nothing but heathen savages, incapable of taking care of themselves, let alone the good earth.  After all, how many, really, were tilling and farming in a rational manner?  How many of those savage men were willing and able to perform basic farm labor (women's work, to the mind of the Indian man) without their attentions and persons wandering off to recreational activities such as hunting and fishing?  They were like undisciplined children, to the early settlers -- and worse, they were pagans!

Meanwhile, the whites were loud, brash, pushy, self-absorbed, and incapable of behaving in a decent manner toward human beings....  and they kept cutting away the best food-hunting woods -- and then they kept their men doing women's work, and the women were, well, they all dressed funny... idiot children who couldn't even figure out what fruits and leaves were safe to eat, who weren't smart enough to take hunting and fishing seriously...

Needless to say, the groups were not easily compatible.

But, unfortunately, current travel technology and political situations of the day guaranteed there would be more coming.  It was inevitable, and therefore, the message needed to be very simple:  adapt or die.  For both groups.

Nobody knows who fired the first shot.  Suffice it to say, adaptation was, and still is, difficult and dangerous.

Now, several hundred years later, there are some who use Columbus Day as an excuse for pointing fingers and laying blame for any and all failures of modern civilization to bring light and happiness to every soul on earth.  At the minimum, these people accuse the massively inept Columbus of having caused the destruction of the great and peaceable kingdom, and, at maximum, of maliciously brought about genocide.  And, for some reason, they carry the thought forward to whinge and moan that it's all the White Man's fault that the Red Man is a bunch of drunken, starving diabetics living on a single horrible reservation in the Badlands, or some such...  They use Columbus Day to celebrate hate, and race-based hate, to boot.   Worse, there are people who fall for the race-baiting attacks.

Holding a grudge for things which (a) happened more than a century ago and  (b) were, ultimately, inevitable is childish and self-destructive.  Encouraging others to support that behavior is divisive and dangerous.  It is time these people were shown for the racists that they are, and it is time our society taught its children to rise above the darker elements of our  history.  Instead of crying over spilt milk and pointing fingers of blame, we can stand up, grow up, and take responsibility for our own lives.

It's time to celebrate unity, in all our accidental diversity.

No comments: