Saturday, October 11, 2008

Columbus Day

Americans have been celebrating Columbus Day since 1792. Colorado is credited with being the first to make Columbus Day a state holiday. In 1934, the Catholic fraternal organization--Knight of Columbus--successfully (and peacefully) advocated for Columbus Day to become a federal holiday.

United States Code, Title 36, Section 107 states:
Subtitle I - Patriotic and National Observances and Ceremonies
Part A - Observances and Ceremonies
Sec. 107. Columbus Day


The President is requested to issue each year a proclamation -

(1) designating the second Monday in October as Columbus Day;

(2) calling on United States Government officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on Columbus Day; and

(3) inviting the people of the United States to observe Columbus Day, in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies that express the public sentiment befitting the anniversary of the discovery of America.

(Pub. L. 105-225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1256.) -MISC1- HISTORICAL AND REVISION NOTES
Revised Source (U.S. Code) Source (Statutes at Large)
107 36:146. Apr. 30, 1934, ch. 184, 48
Stat. 657.
In clause (1), the words "the 2d Monday in October" are
substituted for "October 12" in the Act of April 30, 1934 (ch. 184,
48 Stat. 657), because of section 1(b) of the Act of June 28, 1968
(Public Law 90-363, 82 Stat. 250).
The law "invites" the people of the U.S. to observe Columbus day. However, the law does not demand it. Consequently, choosing to either celebrate Columbus Day, or not, is an exercise of our American civil liberties.

Christopher Columbus
, admittedly, did not actually "discover" America.

Firstly, archeological evidence supports accounts that Vikings, led by
Leif Ericsson, landed upon what they called Vineland (modern day Newfoundland), about AD 1000. Nonetheless, the Viking account states that they only stayed one winter, then return to Greenland. Perhaps some of my ancestors (the "Jensen" clan) were among these vikings. ;)

Secondly, there were native peoples already living in this newly "discovered" land. Archeological evidence suggests the Americas were inhabited by human beings at least as early as 12,500 years ago.

Thirdly, when Christopher Columbus "discovered" America, he thought it was India. After Columbus' journey, later explorations by Amerigo Vespucci ("America" was named after him) of what he also thought was India led him to realize that this was not India as was previously thought, but an entirely new continent previously unknown to Europeans. He verified the fact by following the coast of South America down to within 400 miles of Tierra del Fuego.

Given this context, is there something to celebrate regarding Christopher Columbus' historic journey? I think so. After all, Columbus' expedition launched the first large-scale European colonization of the Americas. Many have divergent views as to the "goodness" of this European colonization. I for one am grateful, being of mixed European, predominately of Spanish/Mexican decent. I would not be living here--blessed as I am today in this free America--if this European colonization had not ever occurred. I find that's worth celebrating, no less so than Independence Day.

Historically, citizens of America have agreed that there is something important to celebrate regarding Columbus' journey. Consequently, U.S. law was established in 1934 by our Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, representing the will of the U.S. citizenry in establishing the celebration of Columbus Day as a federal holiday.

Yet this holiday is a source of some controversy across the nation in recent times. In Denver, for example, protesters routinely attempt to disrupt the Columbus Day parade. Last year, 83 were arrested for blocking a parade route and interfering with a peaceful assembly by pouring fake blood and dismembered baby dolls on the parade route. They delayed the parade for about an hour. Apparently the only way some protesters can express themselves is by denying the free and peaceful assembly of others in a Columbus Day Parade--a form of protest which is contrary to American civil liberty.

I'd prefer protesters use the strength of their ideas, perhaps write their congressman and president, etc., in order to persuade others to agree with their cause, versus resort to violations of the civil rights of others. The Knights of Columbus, for example, did not break the law in violation against the free speech of others when they advocated
for Columbus Day as a federal holiday in 1934. A lot can be learned about these Columbus Day protesters by comparing their unlawful behavior in contrast the peaceful methods of the Knights of Columbus.

God bless,