Whether you like it or not, today is Columbus Day. I can remember when we observed this day, though it was never more than a minor holiday and never included the downside to sustained European contact for America's native peoples. Despite everything, you can't deny history, nor uncritically celebrate myths. I think by ignoring this day, we erase memory, instead of purifying it, as Pope John Paul II called for us to do with regard to the Nazi murder of 6 million Jews and historical Christian complicity over centuries culminating in that abomination.
Sustained contact between the Americas and Europe was inevitable at some point. Taking place when it did, it was bound to be a messy affair, which, I admit, is stating the matter euphemistically. My friend, Deacon Greg Kandra, writing over on The Deacon's Bench's new on-line home on beliefnet, has an interesting post this morning, St. Columbus. Most of us would agree that this sainthood cause is an overreaction to those who are critical of Columbus and the aftermath of his landing on the island of Hispanola. It seems to me all of the events surrounding the 500th anniversary of Columbus' landing were somewhat cathartic. Even if they seemed overly reactive at the time, they forced us to consider the whole history. As with most historical events, trying to take an objective and comprehensive view often permits us to render only an ambiguous judgment. In the case of the sailor from Genoa, it makes his expedition no less significant. The achievement of Columbus remains a pivotal event in world history.