Ah, Columbus Day. That special time of year when we pause in our daily routines to reflect on our complicated past and to start arguments with complete strangers on the internet.

My celebrations of this special time typically begin with a trip to my mailbox.

ME: “Hey! Why isn’t the mail here yet? I ordered a belt on Amazon and I want it right now!”

SMARTER PERSON: “It’s Columbus Day, a federal holiday. You’ll have to wear suspenders.”

Others will celebrate by finding themselves locked out of City Hall when they go to register their cars. Or the bank when they go to cash a check. A few audacious types will get up, get dressed and go to work only to discover — much like the famed explorer before him — that the office is closed and he doesn’t need to be there.

“What a glorious gift!” the fellow will declare, having discovered this bonus day off. “I must proceed at once to Facebook to argue with strangers — and with friends if I know any such heathens.”

And so it begins. If you’re like most people, everything you know about Christopher Columbus comes from that old Bugs Bunny cartoon in which the clever wabbit himself (Herself? There’s an argument for another day) joins the great explorer and wreaks hilarious havoc with his voyage.

Oh, sure. Your fifth-grade teacher may have spent an afternoon on Christopher Columbus, but fifth-grade teachers are not as engaging as Saturday morning cartoons. You probably forgot everything she taught you about the explorer except for the names of his ships. And you only remember THAT much because it kind of rhymes when you say them aloud.

And so, armed with this vast knowledge of the long ago discovery (sort of) of America, straight to Facebook you go to confront the small folk and their small minds.

“Look, fool,” you’ll say to the first dolt brazen enough to post a Columbus-themed meme on Facebook. “Chris ‘Maddog’ Columbus was a rapacious thug who murdered, raped, pillaged and subjected peaceful natives to 500 years of violent colonial oppression. Your statement is an affront to me and and insult to my forebears!”

BRAZEN FOOL: “But all I said was ‘Happy Columbus Day.'”

YOU: “How DARE you, sir!”

The issue is further clouded by the fact that some states have pitched Columbus overboard in favor of a day honoring indigenous peoples. Indigenous Peoples Day, they are calling it. And while most rational people have no problem whatsoever with a day celebrating native Americans, they DO have a problem with do-gooders trying to rewrite history.

“Look, do gooders,” these folks will offer. “Christopher Columbus may have been a brutal, genocidal, disease-spreading conqueror, but he’s OUR brutal, genocidal, disease-spreading conqueror. I demand that you cease at once the slandering of his good name!”

And so half the people you know are demanding that you celebrate Columbus Day unless you hate America. The other half are posting Indigenous Peoples Day memes with the faces of sad Native Americans just DARING you to question this change to this sacred holiday — a holiday you did not even know was a thing until you went to the bank and found it closed.

I honestly wonder — and this would have seemed a ludicrous notion in saner times — how many lifelong friendships will end after crashing against the rocks of the Columbus Day debate. I wonder how many family members will be uninvited to Thanksgiving dinner because he or she did not take the proper stance on the powerfully important matter of what should be celebrated on the second Monday of October.

Like so many controversies these days, this battlefield seems to have no zone for compromise and no sidelines on which to remain neutral. You either embrace Christopher Columbus as a righteous icon of our glorious past or you cast him out like a demon that needs to be exorcised forever, from the calendar from human memory.

If you are a business and need to place a sign on the door to let customers know you will be closed, what do you write? “Closed for Columbus Day” could ostracize half of your clientèle, who will then declare you a hateful white supremacist who clearly hates Native Americans. Go the other route, say you’re closed for Indigenous Peoples Day and you will get just as much hate, only it will be screamed into your right ear rather than your left.

“We’re closed on Monday,” is how the smart folk put it, but there will be those who deride THEM for failing to take a stance on this issue of life-and-death importance. How DARE you, sir! You have lost a customer forever!

I would like to think this endless bickering will lose wind over time, but what chance is there of that? We’re talking about people who believe that tearing down statues and changing the names of universities is the way to a more wholesome and accepting future — an absurd trend that seems to be based on the idea that we will all become better people by pretending we were better people in the past.

I frankly wish we’d just get rid of this Monday holiday and so many others like it. Does Chris Columbus really need a day set aside in his honor 500 years after he sailed the ocean blue? Can’t we just keep teaching schoolchildren the good, the bad and the ugly of that fateful voyage without inflicting them with the screechings of the modern political climate? Maybe with everything in its proper context, those kids will grow up to be adults who are less contentious – and less delicate – than the people who pass for adults today.

Sure, you could change the name of the holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day and that might soothe half the population. But then, come next year, you’ll find plenty of people unearthing truths about the horrible things indigenous people did to one another and the whole debate will begin anew.

We’re living in a time, after all, where people are so cantankerous toward one another, they are willing and able to find reasons to become outraged over lesser occasions — how DARE you plant an oak tree on Arbor Day, you hateful wretch! Don’t you know that oaks were hanging trees back in the days of slavery?

But whatever. Nothing I say, write or do will have any effect whatsoever on the joy people derive from arguing nonstop wherever and whenever they can. Me, I’ll just do what I always do on holidays such as these that never fail to take me by surprise: I’ll go to my mailbox eight, nine or 10 times throughout the day, somehow certain that THIS is the year that the mail will get through in spite of the Monday holiday blockade.

I tell you, I really need that belt.


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