Monday 14 October 2013

A Day Of Shame—Columbus Day, October 14, 2013—And An Unhoped-For Cause For Celebration!

Today's the day the [American] teddy bears have their [annual] picnic to honour the day's eponymous merchant capitalist, Cristoforo Colombo. His so-called voyage of discovery was aimed at finding a short-cut to the riches of island Southeast Asia, to line his pockets and the coffers of Spain's fifteenth-century monarchy. Given the geography of his route it was a fateful inevitability that Columbus's little fleet would come ashore on land inhabited by the descendants of the original inhabitants of the two American continents. The endeavour wasn't glorious: it was hapless. Only one thing is certain. What turned out to be a windfall for Europe was the beginning of a genocidal invasion by European oppressors bent on extracting every ounce of value from the 'new-found' lands. I would go so far as to say that wherever you reside, dear Reader, is highly likely that you are reading this today only because of Columbus's misguided voyage. For, without the transfer of wealth from the Americas to the home countries of the despoilers, there might never have been a "Rennaissance" or an "Age of Enlightenment." And you might well be reading this by candlelight.

Speaking of light. There is a little light peeking out from under the 600- to 700-year-old ideology of European occupation—a growing number of Europe's pan-generational scions view their forebear's activities over the centuries to have been criminal and genocidal. Hardly the basis for celebration on this day of true infamy. However, as recently as last night, and as incredible as it might seem, the highly respected voice of "Sunday Night [NFL] Football" and the Olympic Games, Bob Costas, voiced a criticism that has taken a very long time to surface in the popular conscience. Like so many team names, from Middle School on up through the college ranks, the U.S. National Football League's Washington, D.C. team's nickname—"The Redskins"—evokes terrible memories of the time when the U.S.'s "Manifest Destiny" was to destroy all vestiges of the original inhabitants and span the continent with its people, its railways and its industries. [They are not alone in using an epithet drawn from the genocidal history of North America. There are the Atlanta "Braves," there is "Squaw Valley," the home of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games, and even in normally quiescent Canada, there is the Canadian Football League's "Edmonton Eskimos." And on and on.]

Back to Bob Costas. Last night he acted as the American body politic's designated conscience. And he has given me a little something to celebrate today. More than 19 million watched last night's gridiron match-up, and a good portion would have seen the snippet embedded below. Remember that those 19 million are a real cross-section of American society. So, the audience would have comprised members of the Ku Klux Klan, The Aryan Brotherhood, Southern Baptists, liberal academics, right-wing politicians, tree-huggers, vegans, and a whole lot more—farmers, roughnecks, porters, and you and me. You don't need to know a great deal about U.S. history to know that, like cigarette smoking, glorifying bigoted epithets may soon become socially unacceptable in these United States and elsewhere. Have a look.

I honestly don't know if—as a child of European colonization and oppression—I am philosophically barred from declaring my solidarity with the First Nations of Canada and aboriginal people across the globe. But FWIW I hope that in what's left of my brief candle I will be around to witness a sea change of sentiment toward the original inhabitants of these lands.

Next up:
Blinkhorn, et al. Are Totally Mired In MP Mythology, So It Would Be Cruel To Make Fun Of What They Found In The Thar Desert. 


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