I'm not sure whom to thank. Should I thank Franklin Roosevelt for making October 12 a federal holiday in 1937 or Richard Nixon for making it the second Monday in October in 1971?
Or should I thank Major League Baseball for scheduling a playoff game for 10:07pm EDT so that clowns like me could stay up until 2:15am to watch Brad Lidge's last pitch and the Phils' 5-4 victory?
Or should I thank my employer for recognizing this strange day as part of a three-day weekend so I could stay up until 2:15am?
So many choices. Let's call it a four-way tie.
And by the way, a special "thank you" to Major League Baseball and TNT who couldn't possibly give up their NUMB3RS and Law & Order repeats so that a baseball game could be played at a reasonable time. The Yankees/Twins game ran late, so the start of the Phillies/Rockies had to be moved from TBS to TNT, where tens of viewers were no doubt chomping at the bit (is it champing or chomping?) to see NUMB3RS for the tenth time. Why is it such a problem to have two games on at the same time? I'd guess that TNT could make a lot more advertising money on a baseball playoff game than they make on a repeat of a show that nobody watched to begin with. But I digress.
Columbus Day is one of those goofy holidays (maybe they're all goofy) that we celebrate without question. People say "Columbus Day" and we just nod and go about our day. When I was a kid (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) they told us that he "discovered America." I was never really sure what that meant, since they also told us that there were people here already.
Then they went into that whole "the world is flat" monologue that makes for funny cartoons and nice images of sailing off the edge of the world, but even to a kid doesn't make a lot of sense.
What did Columbus really do? As often happens in history, the myth outweighs the truth. Just like Christmas. In the interest of injecting the day with a few facts, here are some:
In time for the observation of Columbus Day 2004, the final volume of a compendium of Columbus era documents was published by University of California, Los Angeles's Medieval and Renaissance Center.
Geoffrey Symcox, the general editor of the project asserted: "While giving the brilliant mariner his due, the collection portrays Columbus as an unrelenting social climber and self-promoter who stopped at nothing — not even exploitation, slavery, or twisting Biblical scripture - to advance his ambitions. Many of the unflattering documents have been known for the last century or more, but nobody paid much attention to them until recently.
The fact that Columbus brought slavery, enormous exploitation or devastating diseases to the Americas used to be seen as a minor detail - if it was recognized at all - in light of his role as the great bringer of white man's civilization to the benighted idolatrous American continent. But to historians today this information is very important. It changes our whole view of the enterprise."
It's so perfectly American to celebrate a self-promoting, exploitative disease spreader and then completely ignore the facts and plow forward, lest we lose one of our sacred holidays.
Happy Columbus Day.