Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 10/09/2023
Good morning, and Happy Columbus Day! Or, as Brown University insists, Happy Indigenous Peoples Day. (They also call a Christmas Tree a Holiday Tree, of course!)
There will be a Columbus Day Parade today in Providence in the Italian section of the city. Recently, an abused statue of Columbus has been “saved” by a real estate investor (and former mayor) and moved from public land to private land (with security features in place).
Mr. Columbus was a Genoese explorer who, famously, led a Spanish expedition to find the Far East, only to find the “New World” after three torturous months at sea. He did not discover nor set foot on North America proper, but rather found the Bahamas Archipelago and landed on Hispaniola, the island now shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. (If you read the news you’ll find that Haiti is probably in worse shape today than when he arrived there.) In later years, he sailed to Central and South America. Contrary to popular opinion, it was common knowledge that the world was round, as first demonstrated by the Greek mathematician—with impressive accuracy—Eratosthenes (276-194 BC).
Charles G. Mann in two books, 1491 and 1493, tries to provide some historical perspective on pre- and post-European incursions into the “New World,” including the fact that indigenous people were dying off for a variety of reasons, which were then exacerbated by the introduction of new diseases from the Europeans as well as enslavement and military conquest.
Today, Italians use the day as an occasion of pride in their heritage and their contributions to society. Two years ago I had the Grand Marshal of the parade, our local network news anchor and radio personality, and my buddy, on the back ledge of my car driving along the route.
We’ve taken a perverse pride in using contemporary mores (“presentism”) to condemn past sins. Sins ARE sins, of course. There is zero justification for the abuse and subjugation of indigenous peoples and minorities, no matter when it takes place.
Columbus sailed 500 years ago—half an eon. One wonders what the sociologists and the “presentism” advocates 500 years from now (2523) will be thinking about us, with Hamas machine-gunning civilians, Russia invading a sovereign nation, and medical issues treated with political priorities.
Some of you might remember a song sung by Zager and Evans, “In the Year 2525.” Be careful what you do today, they’ll be judging you tomorrow.
If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans. —Stephen Hawking
America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up. —Oscar Wilde
But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown. —Carl Sagan
If Columbus had an advisory committee he would probably still be at the dock. —Arthur Goldberg
Why is it that many contemporary male thinkers, especially men of color, repudiate the imperialist legacy of Columbus but affirm dimensions of that legacy by their refusal to repudiate patriarchy? —Bell Hooks