Do you know what today is?
Can you recall the name of the guy we’re supposed to honor on October 12th?
No? Then you must be under 45!
What did they call it when you were in school? Was it maybe “Genocide Against Native Americans Day”?
When I was a wee sprat attending elementary school in Virginia and Maryland, we celebrated Columbus Day on this date every year. Teachers explained it to us in class: Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer who sailed west in 1492 under the sponsorship of the King and Queen of Spain, and discovered what was later named America.
It was a day to be proud of. But not anymore — Columbus is an exemplar of the Evil White Patriarchy, and we don’t celebrate him anymore.
When I was a teenager I read a science fiction novel about the Columbian Exposition that the author imagined would be held in 1992, on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ expedition. The protagonist in the novel was a magnate who sponsored a celebration that was held in Earth orbit — pretty spectacular.
So I couldn’t wait to see what the 500th anniversary would actually be like. Then, when 1992 came and we finally got there — nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Except for some column inches about the Genocide Against Native Americans, of course. In the space of just three decades, Columbus had morphed from The Hero of the West into The Evil White Dude.
What will we be celebrating in 2092? Maybe Khishkhash ibn Said ibn Aswad Al-Qurtuby Day? That’s not very euphonious — “In 1492, Khishkhash ibn Said ibn Aswad Al-Qurtuby sailed the ocean blue” — it just doesn’t scan all that well.
Besides, Mr. Al-Qurtuby discovered America in 889 AD (or 276 Hijri), not 1492.
Oh, well. Happy Columbus Day, anyway.