Saturday, October 10, 2009

Weekend Assignment #288: Columbus and his Day

I've been dithering since last night (well, that and reading), trying to come up with a topic for this Weekend Assignment entry. Let's try this one:

Weekend Assignment: #288: Columbus Day seems to have become a largely disregarded and maligned holiday in recent years, as the dark side of the explorer's legacy has made inroads in the public's perception. Do you think that the voyages of Christopher Columbus still merit a national holiday? Why or why not? And if not, what holiday would you propose to replace it?

Extra Credit: Did you even get Columbus Day off from work or school this year?

It's a testament to the power of a catchy jingle that every year at this time I remember, and sometimes sing, a ditty I learned in elementary school:

Christopher Columbus
Sailed from sunny Spain,
Crossed the mighty ocean
Through the sun and rain.

Christopher Columbus
Now we honor you;
You found our dear country,
So we all thank you.
As we now know, he didn't exactly find "our dear country," but he definitely sailed from Spain, sunny or otherwise. I distinctly remember Dan Cheney showing me his models of Columbus's ships, the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, and earnestly explaining that only the Santa Maria survived that first voyage. My memory is wrong, however. According to Wikipedia, it was the Santa Maria that ran aground. Furthermore, the names by which we know the other two ships were only nicknames. All in all, I'd say that very little of what I learned about Columbus as a child was actually true.

Based on what we know now, does Columbus merit a holiday? Tough call, I think. He may not have reached the North American continent itself, and he was not the first sailor to believe that the Earth was round. Furthermore, he was directly or indirectly responsible for the spread of at least one deadly disease and the enslavement of vulnerable natives. Still, he was far from the most brutal of the Europeans to visit our hemisphere, and there's no denying that his voyages changed the world, for better and for worse. I guess there's no harm in acknowledging that with a holiday - but only if kids are no longer taught the sanitized version I got in elementary school.

And yes, I do get Columbus Day off from my temporary job with a local manufacturer. It is not a paid holiday. But I will use the time to get stuff done at St. Michael's instead, so it's no great loss.

How about you? Do you still find value in Columbus Day, or is it just another day when the banks are closed? Give us your opinion on the matter, either in your own blog or in the comments below. Next weekend I'll highlight your responses, thus:

For Weekend Assignment #287: On the Move, I asked whether you've moved very often in your life, mostly stayed put. Here are excerpts from the responses:

Florinda says...
While the mechanics of moving are an undeniable pain in the butt, I actually don't mind the experience of it all that much. There's a sense of excitement and possibility in settling into a new place. However, I won't mind if the next move - or two, or however many there are - is another local one, since my long-distance moves average out to just about one per decade of my life.

Julie says...
We tend follow the boring route and not move around. We found a nice apartment before we got married (Paul moved in and I joined him on our wedding day. See? Very boring and conventional) and we stayed there until we found Stately Barrett Manor.
That's all the participants we had this week. But I do, as always, appreciate what Florinda and Julie have to say!

Here are the guidelines if you'd like to participate in the Weekend Assignment:
  1. Please post your entry no later than Friday, October 16th at 6 PM. (You can also post your response in the comments thread, but a blog entry is better. )
  2. Please mention the Weekend Assignment in your blog post, and include a link back to this entry.
  3. Please come back here after you've posted, and leave a link to your entry in the comments below.
  4. Visiting other participants' entries is strongly encouraged!
  5. I'm always looking for topic ideas. Please email me at mavarin2 on if there's a Weekend Assignment theme you'd like to see. If I use your idea, you will be credited as that week's "guest professor."
Eventually, I may or may not explain to you all about what I was doing last weekend, and why. This weekend promises to be far more relaxed; I may even get around to last week's commenting! :)



Cheryl B. said...

I stopped by your blog to verify that you were still hosting your Friday "theme day".

In case you aren't sure why I would do that, please first go here:

and then read this one:

I see that you still are, so I shall leave you on the lists :-D

Should you wish to contact me for any reason, feel free to do so via: pink bunnies (at) sbc global (dot) net

Cheryl B.

Florinda said...

I'm not guaranteeing that this is a trend, but this is the second Weekend Assignment in a row that I've actually written ON the weekend.

barrettmanor said...

Florinda, I AM impressed. ;-) I had no chance to write as I was in meetings. So here is my offering:

Mike said...

Okay, I made it this time. :)