44 Comments

  1. I agree with Stan, but the image resolution did not help, and the robe made it even worse: the fabric strip on his side makes it look like a “green screen see through” effect, so that his right arm is hanging in the air, without any means of support.

  2. Every time I think of Disco I think of this song. It comes from the days of “song poems”, those ads in magazines for POEMS WANTED! You could send in your poem and for a small fee someone would sing it and record it.

    Disco Disco Disco,
    I’m going to Mount Kisco
    To buy myself some Crisco …

  3. Why shouldn’t the day be called after Columbus? Sure, Eric the Red found part of what would be called America, but that was no great feat for him (he was never far form land), and nothing ever came of it. The indigenous people were already here, but we didn’t have trade between the continents; they didn’t know about Europe.

    And if you say, “but the slaves!” The slaves he bought from the indigenous people? So, why would we want to call it after people who practiced slavery? And then you ask what about Columbus’ own writing? You mean what he wrote about the indigenous people? He wasn’t writing home about his own crew; he was writing to the King and Queen who sponsored his journey, about what he saw in what he thought was India.

  4. Seen on the Web:

    “I’ll keep observing Columbus Day. Thanks”
    “What do you do to ‘observe’ Columbus Day? Get lost in a grocery store looking for spices?”

    And any further response would veer too far into the political for CIDU.

  5. Todd: Columbus did not purchase slaves from indigenous people. By and large most indigenous people were made into slaves by conquest, not purchase, and while there may have been some small exceptions, Columbus was not one of them.

    It’s not correct to generalize and say that indigenous people “practiced slavery.” There were many different indigenous groups across the Americas, some of which practiced slavery, and some of which did not. However there’s no indication that the specific indigenous people who lived in the Caribbean islands Columbus visited practiced slavery. Of course, it’s hard to be sure, since the populations of those islands were entirely wiped out.

    I would say the main reason to not have a Columbus Day is that Columbus intentionally enslaved large numbers of people, and that those actions led to multiple genocides. On the counter side, it’s arguable that he made a big discovery – but for me, it’s a little difficult to say that he made a “big discovery,” when he never even realized what that discovery was, but continued his whole life to mistakenly claim that he had discovered a new route to India.

  6. I’m going to disagree with Winter Wallaby’s closing statement. History is full of accidental discoveries whose potential were not immediately recognized. Penicillin comes to mind and, if I’m not mistaken, Listverse has articles on others. Even if Columbus himself never realized that it wasn’t really India he had landed in, his expedition certainly set in motion a series of events that quickly changed the world as we know it (for better or worse). And even if you would rather credit Amerigo Vespucci with the “real discovery” (semantics, if you ask me), it was Columbus who enabled it all.

    Now, whether or not to honor the man arguably comes down to personal preference, after weighing the good and the bad, I think. One could also choose to see Columbus Day as a recognition of the momentous event without specifically honoring the man himself.

  7. Tom, I see your point that you can recognize the event without specifically honoring the man.

    But I’d make a distinction between a discovery whose potential others don’t recognize, and a discovery which the purported discoverer doesn’t actually recognize. If Fleming had claimed that Penicillin was an amazing baldness cure, and stubbornly refused to agree with others who claimed it had antibacterial properties, I don’t think he would be praised as “discovering penicillin.”

  8. One problem is that people have been looked at and judged by the standards and knowledge of their time, not the time and place of the person doing the judging.

    Let’s say that in the future in sometime dogs cannot be owned and have rights. (NOTE I AM NOT EQUATING DOGS AND PEOPLE OF ANY SORT, IT IS JUST A LET’S SAY EXAMPLE) Then people in that future would look back at everyone who owned a dog in the times before theirs (including now) as evil for owning dogs which should be free.

    Or when in the future people travel and solar for all their electricity and think that everyone in our time who used gasoline, diesel, or generated electricity were evil.

    There are discussions that it was wrong of Geo Washington not to free his slaves until his will. They were actually not freed until Martha’s death (which left her locked in her room in fear that she would killed for much of her life after him). Why? If he freed his slaves while she was alive (most of whom were actually hers only for her life and were then property of her daughter and her descendants under the treatment of women under the law then) any of his slaves who were couples or families with any of her slaves would be separated as his slaves would have to leave the colony/state within 6 months of being freed and hers would have to remain. Even beyond this – some of their slaves might have families with slaves from other plantations in the area and would have to leave them behind also.

    Thomas Jefferson could not free his slaves – even when he died – as he was in debt when he died. Again, freeing them would mean that they would have to leave the colony/state and never see family members at other plantations again. He was in debt as he and his wife’s BIL took over his FIL’s huge debts when FIL in died – part of the reason for this was to keep slave families intact and not separate them . When the time came to settle his estate they could not freed – it would be the same as today having a loan on a car and giving it to someone in one’s will without the loan being paid off by the will. His FIL had “relations” with one of his slave women – and her daughter was, therefore, half sister to Jefferson’s wife Martha. Martha had him bring at er half sisters and her half brothers – the Hemmings – to Monticello as part of Martha’s share of her father’s estate. People in period talk about how much alike Sally and Martha looked and how light skinned Sally was. Martha died relatively young and if stores are true then Sally’s similar appearance to Martha attracted Jefferson to his half sister in law, one of his wife’s family’s slaves.

    There were attempts to free the slaves while the Declaration of Independence was being debated, but it was not going to pass due to the deep south colonies/states and rather than lose it all it was decided that the question of same was something to be done at later date or by the individual states.

    Too much?

  9. Thanks, Winter W.
    Of course, we can never know who would ultimately be praised for discovering penicillin in such a hypothetical scenario. But those other people (in that same scenario) wouldn’t have had any penicillin (or fungus or whatever it was) to study and work with if Fleming hadn’t accidentally discovered it first. Perhaps, indeed, they would get all the praise while Fleming would be known as “that crazy man who thought he had discovered a cure for baldness, which turned out to be wrong but nonetheless prompted the world’s first cultivation of penicillin (by others)”. And then people like you and me might have a similar debate over who the “real” discoverer was and be debating the merits and significance of Fleming’s work with the stuff. Perhaps he would get some praise or perhaps he would be forgotten altogether and there would be no debate. We will never know.

    As for Columbus, perhaps I should have said “significance” instead of “potential” — or maybe even both, as in: the discovery of even greater significance and potential than he himself recognized. Either way, I cannot subscribe to your distinction. I think Columbus’ voyage qualifies as a significant discovery. It’s OK if you don’t.
    Thanks.

  10. Ooops, we have a correction: It should say: “A discovery of even greater significance (…)” — not ” ‘the’ discovery”. Smeg!

  11. Tom: That makes sense to me. I think it goes back to to your earlier point of whether one is focusing on the event or the individual. It would be quite hard for me to dispute that Columbus’ voyage was significant! I think you’re focusing more on the voyage, and I’m focusing more on how many accolades to bestow on Columbus as a person, for that significant voyage. But either way of looking at it is reasonable.

  12. Even by the standards of the day, Columbus was not a heroic or laudable man. He didn’t just enslave the natives; he brutalized them.

  13. Tom: Leif Erickson at least hit mainland North America, even if he didn’t get south of Lance Aux Meadows in Newfoundland. But why we should we, in the United States particularly care about a guy who explored the Caribbean and Venezuela? I could see Venezuelans of Spanish descent caring about it — he DID help pave the way for THEM to get there. But those of us in North America don’t really have much to do with it. It’s really weird for it to be a United States holiday.

  14. I watched a video (which I can no longer find) about taking down statues, including that of Columbus. The narrator/historian stated that the erecting of Columbus statues was encouraged by those of Italian descent to ‘counter’ anti-Italian prejudice and ‘give Italians someone to be proud of’.

    I lived in a city from 1957-2015 that had a predominant Italian population; a Christopher Columbus statue was not erected until the late 2010s.

    Any excuse in a storm, I guess.

  15. Doing a Google search brings up a June 2020 article about this statue having been defaced with graffiti. Kenosha, WI has sure had a lot of unrest this year; more than I can remember since Jesse Jackson was in town and introduced by the mayor as “Spearchucker” . . . the AMC/Chrysler plant was being shut down, thereby throwing an entire city dependent on it into chaos.

  16. Politely asking: Have most points of view had their say?

    I’m glad everybody in the thread has been friendly in tone. Please keep it that way (if there is anything to add, anyhow); so we don’t have to try out closing comments. Thanks!

  17. Andrea, while the claim that Columbus monuments were erected to combat prejudice against Italian-Americans might be suspect, Italian-American groups definitely had a hand in getting a lot of them erected. These groups are also generally among Columbus monuments’ most ardent defenders today.

    I live in a major metro area that has never been known for its Italian-American population, but we have a Columbus statue (well, had, it was so badly vandalized a few months ago that it was taken down) in a city park. It was paid for by a group of local Italian-American organizations and donated to the city in 1992 during the hoopla surrounding 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage. There are plenty of other cities with similar stories behind their Columbus monuments.

  18. One of the several ironies about the “Columbus as Italian-American pride/anti-bigotry symbol” is that anti-Italian-American prejudice was based on PART of Italy. There was prejudice against Southern Italians, people from the Mezzogiorno region south of Rome. (Well, because of how Italy is shaped, near-ish Rome, there’s a bit of “Southern” Italy which is actually north of a bit of “Northern” Italy, but I live in Boston where there’s a piece of highway where you’re going north on 95 and south on 1 at the same time, while actually driving east, so I have no grounds to complain.) People had bigotry against Neapolitan and Sicilian people, for instance, but if you were from Venice, Milan, Tuscany, or like that, you were fine. So the communities that wanted to push back against bigotry, break the stereotype that all Italians were Mafia thugs, and all that — they were mostly Southern Italian.

    Columbus was from Genoa. And, indeed, pre-Italian-American-groups claiming him as a great Italian-American, he was generally referred to as a Genoese navigator, not an Italian navigator.

    I mean, the fact that there wasn’t a particular general “Italian” identity until Victor Emmanuel created a unified Italian Kingdom in 1861 has something to do with that. Still, there’s irony in the fact that the oppressed-minority Italian Americans rallied around a figure who wasn’t, in fact, one of them.

  19. @ Andréa – That remark reminded me that it’s about time to get out my copy of “M*A*S*H” and watch it again.
    P.S. How about a compromise, with a statue of Columbus as he appeared returning from his third voyage (under arrest, and in chains)…?
    P.P.S. “Moderation is painless, it brings on many changes…

  20. Kilby: Nice compromise! It reminds me of a compromise my wife always suggests when she hears a story about someone wanting to put up the Ten Commandments as a public monument: Put them up, but make them the Jewish ones. Then no one will be happy.

  21. Presumably “spearchucker” – one of the characters in the original novel and the movie was called “Spearchucker Jones”

  22. Who was dropped from the TV series after they did research and found that there were no African American doctors working in any MASHs during the Korean War….

  23. Maybe it’s just me, but when I travel and walk through downtown parks, I love seeing statues from hundreds of years ago. I don’t care if it’s honoring a person who by today’s standards, is offensive. I just enjoy the art. Imagining the history, good or bad, is a wonderful experience. I guess I just like historical places.

  24. A statue in the public square is not history. It is approval and glorification. If we’re glorifying people who have caused pain, death, or oppressions, maybe it’s best to move them to a museum, where they can be presented in some context. Mr. Columbus was certainly a historically significant figure who did historically significant things. He is not appropriate figure glorify.

  25. @ Andréa – Pete identified the connection perfectly. I have no idea how it was handled in the book, but in the movie someone asks “Jones” if it’s OK to use the nickname, and he seemed perfectly comfortable with it. Back when I first saw the movie as a kid, I didn’t catch the racist connotation at all, I thought it was simply a reference to his skill at throwing a football.
    P.S. @ WW – Speaking of compromises:

  26. Columbus has nothing to do with the United States of America and if he has a holiday, it should be meaningless like all the 5000 other “holidays” out there. Not a day off for the bank.

  27. I think you’re looking at this the wrong way: if Colombus Day is a day off for the bank, all the 5000 other holidays should be off for the bank, too. 🙂

  28. It’s not just a ‘day off for the bank’; it’s a federal holiday, too. Offices closed, no postal delivery (we both spent Monday thinking no one loved us anymore, as we hadn’t received a single piece of mail, not even junk mail, ’til I realized on Tuesday it was a federal holiday).

  29. @ Andréa – I think Olivier was referring to the British expression “bank holiday”, which means roughly the same as “federal holiday” in the US.

  30. Redde Caesari quae sunt Caesaris: toddgz mentioned ‘bank holidays’ first.
    As a Frenchman, we have ‘les jours fériés’. They are numerous and sacred. Lazy us! 😉

  31. @ Olivier – You don’t have “days”, you have an entire month.
    P.S. If anyone is considering a holiday trip to France (assuming things ever get back to normal), it would probably be better to avoid all of August. Sure, the weather is nice, but almost everything off the beaten track is closed, because all the natives are on vacation themselves.

  32. @Kilby: august has only one ‘jour férié’: the 15th. The rest of the month is ‘congés payés’ (=paid vacation days).
    You want to be careful around may, too: lots of ‘jours fériés’ that month (the 1st, the 8th, Ascension thursday, Pentecost monday, and sometimes Easter monday is on april 26th) and people ‘font le pont'(=make the bridge, i.e. take days off to connect holidays to weekends).
    We also have ‘la trêve des confiseurs’ (=confectioners’ truce) between Christmas and new year’s day.

  33. @ Olivier – Your careful Capitalization of all the Holiday Names was a sudden reminder that in French, weekday and month names are not capitalized, nor are street names (unless they are named after a person, in which case the person’s name is Capitalized, but not the “rue de…” in front of it). English and German capitalization rules are pretty much the same, but there are a few things that German doesn’t capitalize, like nationalities, which still looks weird to me.

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