The Edmond Sun

October 12, 2012

Columbus Day not what it used to be — maybe for good reason

Marjorie Anderson
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Lies, lies, lies, and I don’t mean accusations the Reps and the Dems are making against each other in these crunch weeks before the election. Well, maybe that too, but the lies I’m talking about — if that’s what they are — begin with, “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” which is what we all learned in grade school. That part’s probably true, but the story goes downhill from there.

For starters, they’re saying Columbus did not set out to prove the world was round, that Pythagoras had already done that in the 6th Century B.C. I don’t know what to believe. We little kids were also taught that Christopher’s three jolly crews arrived on our shores aboard the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, which is why — wearing vintage crepe paper costumes in autumnal colors our mothers had taped us into — we starred in grade school productions, stepping out of the cardboard ships our fathers had constructed, onto the shores of America (before it was called America) every Oct. 12 to claim ownership of the New World we had found. Now they’re saying the truth’s not so lovely.

If you wondered why your mail didn’t come on the 8th and why the bank was closed, it’s because you were celebrating the new and improved Columbus Day, which now falls on the second Monday in October for the sake of the working folks, who enjoyed a three-day weekend. Looks like we could at least depend on the date to stay the same, even if we don’t do much celebrating anymore ... and that could be for good reason.

For one thing, Columbus must have been a lousy navigator, which would be why he and his crew made it no further than the Caribbean islands that first trip. I’m told he didn’t set foot on our shores till after he was sprung from prison to make three more voyages, by which time an English merchant of Italian descent, Richard Ameryk, had given our nation his own name. Sort of.

And why, you might ask, had Columbus been imprisoned? I’d rather not think it was because at the end of his first three-month journey in search of riches and land, and throughout his occupation thereafter, he enslaved, converted and introduced diseases that — in a single generation’s time — eradicated all but a few hundred of the 250,000 natives he encountered along the way. If so, it serves him right that his remains were eventually buried and dug up and buried again in so many places that no one knows where they lie now.

At this point, I don’t know what to believe about my nation’s first hero. What I do know is that Big Bird came under political fire between the original Columbus Day and yesterday, and I don’t like to think I could lose yet another national hero.

MARJORIE ANDERSON is an Edmond resident.