Feature

The future of Columbus Day

Can a national holiday survive when detractors say it's nothing to celebrate?

Columbus Day used to be a big deal, said Katie Powalski in the Orlando, Fla., Sentinel. In school, we used to have "a lesson on how Columbus 'discovered' America, often followed by a room party or patriotic assembly." Now kids are being taught about how Columbus' arrival was promptly followed by the extermination of native populations. "If this is the direction the next generation is going, how long can we really expect this national holiday to even exist?"

Instead of celebrating Columbus Day, said Aisha Brown in Examiner.com, maybe we should be observing Indigenous People's Day. Enslavement and disease wiped out the Taino people Columbus met on the island of Hispaniola, and when there were no longer enough Indians, the trans-Atlantic African slave trade ramped up. "Native American history is our history," so it's about time we learned more about it instead of glorifying Columbus.

"Christopher Columbus was not a villain," said Mario Taracena in the Colorado Springs Gazette. "He was a great sea admiral and a magnanimous man," and that's why we have honored his memory for so long. The people who are vilifying Columbus now are trying to blame him for everything that went wrong in the New World. But the Columbus haters are trying to score political points—they're certainly not teaching the historical truth.

No matter what you think of Columbus Day, said Staci Sturrock in the Palm Beach Post, the holiday is sinking. "The choppy seas of the recession sank at least two major Columbus Day parades this year" in Philadelphia and Baltimore, where the 119-year-old parade was said to be the country's oldest Columbus Day celebration. To stay afloat, holidays need people who celebrate them. "In that respect, Columbus Day isn't as seaworthy as it used to be."

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