Today is Columbus Day, a traditional holiday for some government workers, school children and bankers.
It’s been an American holiday for more than 200 years and formally was declared a holiday back in the 1930s by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
But what exactly are we commemorating?
That’s a question now more complicated than it seemed when I first learned of the Italian explorer in elementary school.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
For many, the holiday is a celebration for Catholics and Italian-Americans. But many others also question the explorer’s legacy of “opening the door to European colonialism, which brought disease, destruction and catastrophic wars to the people who already lived here,” as reported by the New York Times.
Others, like Nicole Russell in this piece for the Washington Examiner, disagree. She notes, in part, “because nothing says thanks to the man who discovered the Americas like Americans holding a protest.”
“Let's pretend the accusations about Columbus are true. He still likely did contribute many good things to our historical memory,” she writes.
Setting aside the problem of declaring Columbus “discovered” a land already inhabited by countless people, does she have a point?
Some communities like Salt Lake City essentially scraped Columbus Day recently, formally declaring the second Monday in October as “Indigenous Peoples Day.” Supporters of the move told Fox 13 Salt Lake City it was “a symbol” that acknowledges “a wrong doing to Native Americans.”
“It represents a step towards correcting a history that has been sanitized,” said Moroni Benally, co-founder of the Utah League of Native American Voters.
So, what do you think? Should we scrap the day? Change its name? Or leave things as they are? Is this an important debate or another divisive distracting argument over things that can’t be undone?