Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Real Columbus Day

Today (October 12) is the real anniversary of Columbus making landfall in the New World in 1492. The first celebration of Columbus Day was held in New York on this day in 1792. One hundred years later (1892), the Pledge of Allegiance was first recited by students in many US public schools, as part of a celebration marking the 400th anniversary of Columbus's voyage. In 1992, TIME Magazine asked, "Is the 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage to America an event the country should celebrate?" Evidently not, as South Dakota has changed the day to "Native American Day," and the city of Berkeley, California has replaced Columbus Day with "Indigenous People's Day."

It was Columbus' goal to bring the light of Christianity to the New World. In the final years of his life he realized that he may have also brought the institutions of the Roman Empire (church, state, slavery) to the New World. He refused to don the uniform of the Admiral, instead choosing to wear the humble garb of a Franciscan monk.

In 1892, during the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus' landing, teachers, preachers, poets and politicians used Columbus Day rituals to teach ideals of patriotism. These patriotic rituals were framed around themes such as support for war, citizenship boundaries, the importance of loyalty to the nation, and celebrating social progress. (source)

In 1928, Calvin Coolidge could still speak admiringly of Columbus, mixing the themes of Christianity and statism. Obama cannot speak with the same admiration. Compare Coolidge and Obama here.

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