Mike Kueber's Blog

October 12, 2015

More on Columbus Day

Filed under: Culture,Facebook,History — Mike Kueber @ 8:52 pm
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I rarely post anything political on my Facebook wall because I don’t want to annoy my apolitical friends. But this morning I couldn’t resist posting the following:

  • After getting tired of all the news articles supporting the movement from Columbus Day to Native American/Indigenous Peoples Day based on Native American contributions, I commented on an article in USA Today with the question, “What have Native Americans contributed to civilization?” One sage, noting the jersey in my Profile Picture, wryly responded, “Sports teams’ mascots.” Touché.

Not surprisingly, my veiled political comment elicited several substantive responses:

  • A progressive college friend living in Norway – “I’m not sure how long, if ever, it takes survivors of genocide to contribute meaningfully to the society who took over their land. The vanishing Indian is out-of-sight and out-of-mind through political and social manipulation.”

I responded, “Katie, I can’t think of a better example of ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations.'” I was concerned that my response could be construed as an ad hominem, but went with it anyway.

  • My best friend in San Antonio – “Native Americans have made many contributions to America but I agree that this anger today toward Europeans for what happened 500 years ago and continued for another couple of hundred years is really not very beneficial to all concerned. Let’s work to make things better in America today while acknowledging that our past had some big mistakes…..I still love the Fighting Sioux, a name which centers on them being a fierce, hardworking people. and honors them….Somewhat like the “Fighting Irish” which I wear as a badge of honor.”

I responded, “Mike, I think you hit on the sticking point. Most people would not object to a Native American Day, except when the movement simultaneously repudiates the coming of Western Civilization to America. Can you imagine if Asia got here before Europe? Would the world still be looking for democracy? p.s., several articles refer generically to Native American contributions to our civilization, but uniformly fail to list any. You assert ‘many contributions.’ Go ahead, name them.” I’m still waiting for that list.

  • A progressive high school friend living in Minnesota – “Just to add to contributions, I have observed that the Native American Veterans group is very strong and proud to have served for our country.”

I responded, “Mary, I was referring to Native American culture, not to contributions of contemporary Native Americans. Surely, America has benefited immensely from Native American individuals.”

  • My progressive cousin who lives in Massachusetts – “My sense is that Native Americans seem to have showed profound respect for the land and its creatures. They lived in a sustainable way.  They warmly welcomed us, which, umm, in retrospect was quite the mistake.  I have read that at least some tribes did not believe in the concept of ownership of land. I find that highly admirable.  I am not an expert, though. And, there were many different cultures, with different values.”

I responded, “Pam, I agree with your points, but those attributes or values were not what was needed to survive those times. It reminds me of a scene in Downton Abbey where aristocrat Robert was bemoaning the fate of his kind to his rich mother-in-law from America and she responded that his kind must adapt to the new world or it would die.”

All in all, I found this exchange of viewpoints quite beneficial by suggesting facets I hadn’t considered. It reminds of the old writer who said he didn’t know what he thought about a specific subject because he hadn’t yet written about it. I would add to that saying by suggesting that it helps immeasurably to write about a subject, but just as importantly, the writing should be subject to peer review.

And even though the exchange was beneficial, I plan to continue being reluctant to post political stuff on my Facebook wall. For some walls it is OK, but for now I want my wall to be light and friendly.

October 9, 2015

Columbus Day

During yoga practice today, our teacher mentioned that there would be a modified schedule next Monday for the holiday. I had no idea which holiday occurred in mid-October, so afterwards I asked my yogi and she said Columbus Day. As an aside, she mentioned that Columbus Day was being replaced in Oklahoma by Native Americans Day.

As we discussed our rudimentary knowledge of Columbus, my yogi and I were joined by a mutual friend who had recently emigrated from Mexico, and I asked him how Mexicans felt about Columbus. Initially he said their feelings were mixed, but when he elaborated I quickly learned that “mixed” was a softer way of saying that Columbus was an unmitigated villain. He was less a great explorer and more a genocidal imperialist. My friend said he had once asked his American wife what American kids were taught about Columbus and she reported that they were taught that Columbus discovered America, but were taught nothing about atrocities. That certainly conforms to my recollection, too.

When I got home from class I attempted to confirm the Oklahoma switch from Columbus Day to Native Americans Day and learned that that was an exaggeration. Several cities in OK and elsewhere had made the switch, but no state in America had. And Columbus Day remains a federal holiday.

But as I delved further, I learned that the movement for Native American Day a/k/a Indigenous Peoples Day had found its way to San Antonio. According to the San Antonio Current, Bexar County has just passed a resolution naming October 12 as Indigenous Peoples Day.  Also, the San Antonio City Council was considering a similar move.

The Current reports that the movement in San Antonio is being led almost single-handedly by Antonio Diaz:

  • For at least a decade, Antonio Diaz has been on a mission: to convince county and city government to declare October 12 — the day Christopher Columbus arrived in the Western Hemisphere, leading to mass murder, slavery and the near-extinction of Native Americans in North America — as Indigenous Peoples Day.

Diaz makes a three-pronged argument in support of his cause:

  1. The World Heritage status of San Antonio’s missions is based significantly on their connection to indigenous people.
  2. Bexar Country recently came down heavily against the symbols of the evil Confederacy and acting similarly against Columbus would be consistent.
  3. The growing BlackLivesMatter movement symbolizes the rejection of mistreatment of the black and brown communities, which need to present a unified front against ongoing racism.

A few days ago I blogged about the Spurs and Gregg Popovich honoring John Carlos for his medal-ceremony protest, and wondered why he deserved to be honored. The same thought occurred to me when I read about honoring the Indigenous People instead of Columbus. Columbus may have been an evil colonizer, but he did lead Western Civilization to America. What about the Indigenous People? Fortunately, the article in the Current addressed my question head-on:

  • The least local government can do is acknowledge Native American contributions to the city.  “I feel like we’ve lacked [that], fallen short,” [Diaz] said. “We have a rich history that starts with the American Indians in founding San Antonio and to contributions being made today.”

Huh? If the indigenous people who preceded us in America made any lasting honor-deserving contributions to our current civilization, I don’t know what those are. This attack on Columbus reminds me of the ongoing movement in the Democratic Party to remove Jefferson and Jackson from their pantheon of heroes because their politics no longer conform to modern Democratic values.

I prefer leaving in place the honors that we have bestowed to our heroes and icons and legends without too much relitigation of their lives. I don’t need to know truly whether Davy Crockett went down swinging.