By Anonymous (not verified) on October 12, 2009

Spare me the Columbus Day parades.

On Oct. 12, many people in this country will praise the explorer for “discovering” this side of the Atlantic while ignoring the darker truth of his infamous 1492 voyage.

Schoolchildren will make milk carton ships, older students will trace the Spanish explorer’s rout, and in some cities people will flock to parades — all of this to honor the man responsible for opening up the “new” world for trade and immigration.

But if we are to truthfully recall the memory of the man, we cannot leave out the other story of his journey: atrocities against indigenous island people that Christopher Columbus and his crew inflicted when they arrived on Caribbean shores. And we cannot dismiss Columbus’ opening this continent up to future generations of colonialism, genocide and land theft from Native American people.

Columbus did not come in peace. He came with guns and chains. He came to conquer.

Yes, Columbus Day would be a real downer of a holiday if the whole story of the explorer’s exploits were given equal time.

Imagine a parade float of actors playing Taino Indians being tortured.

Imagine standing around the office water cooler attempting to fathom how an entire race of indigenous people was almost wiped out by European diseases, assimilation and famine.

And imagine trying to teach grade school children how to draw the same Taino Indian in chains — waiting to be boarded like cattle aboard a Spanish ship.

This all might seem to be an absurd, unflattering way to celebrate one of history’s most mythic explorers. But if the success of Columbus was built on subjugation and slavery, how can we justify honoring his memory?

A number of people, including many Native Americans, believe we should stop celebrating Columbus Day because there can be no reconciliation between his triumphs and his crimes.

But I believe we should keep Columbus’ memory alive. This day should serve as an opportunity to stir discussion that includes his dark legacy.

Coming to terms with our past should do more than prevent us from repeating it. It should help us get over it.

As a nation, we need to gain enough distance from our history of colonialism to move forward peacefully and treat other peoples respectfully.

Our insistence on honoring Christopher Columbus with ticker tape only makes that journey longer and more difficult.

Mark Anthony Rolo is an enrolled member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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