On the Fourth of July, we celebrate our county’s birth. We celebrate that one fact. We still acknowledge the unfortunate deaths in the revolutionary war, with its Valley Forge and so many people killed – new Americans died, as did British, the French and some German Hessians, among others. It was a war on our soil, but it was full of international death.
On Labor Day, we celebrate our working men and women. WE celebrate them and what they have accomplished. We still acknowledge the labor riots, the poor meat factory conditions that we learned about in Upton Sinclair’s THE JUNGLE, black lung disease that came out of the horrible conditions of working in the Pennsylvania coal mines, the need for child labor laws, and so many more similar instances like those.
On Memorial Day, we honor our military men and women who have served in both peacetime and war. We celebrate their service and their sacrifice. We still acknowledge that some of those military folks didn’t exactly behave so very well in other countries. Sometimes that was taking advantage of the ladies in those lands, fathering and abandoning children. Sometimes they took drugs and smoked pot on the front lines of Viet Nam.
Which brings up Columbus Day. On this day, we celebrate the opening of the New World – the discovery of an entirely new land mass that opened a whole new era of history to the entire world. We acknowledge that Mr. Columbus chose to abuse/mistreat/enslave the natives of the islands, and that he did not indeed hit the mainland – and other matters that have been attributed to his time on the seas.
If we are going to dissolve Columbus Day because of the conditions I mention, should we also be doing the same to the other commemorations I mention? Should we rechristen these events because of those less than stellar matters attached to them?
Of course not, don’t be silly! Of course I am being ridiculous in my comparisons.
There is no such thing as a perfect event or celebration. There are ways to deride any holiday – care to label Christmas as anti-Semitic? How about Thanksgiving? Perhaps PETA should consider it as discrimination against turkeys. I’m sure someone could even turn the moon landing of Armstrong and Aldrin (for which there is no national holiday – and should be) into a cause against interplanetary pollution.
We have recently watched some of our public schools try to rewrite their history textbooks because of certain things that are viewed as anti-American or non-patriotic. Aren’t we doing the same when we take our holidays and forget that the intent was to celebrate something in spite of the shadows that came with it? All that stuff about Columbus – unfortunate, ugly, distasteful – but do we take down the whole event because of it?
Such behavior to me sounds like the story about the stupid animal with his leg caught in a trap. He chewed off three legs and found himself still stuck.
Let us not imitate that beast by forgetting WHY we celebrate the things we celebrate …. And let us be smart enough to recognize the difference.