October 12, 2009

On Columbus Day

I just realized that today is Columbus Day, and in doing so, I remembered writing about this holiday once. When I went and looked it up, I realized that it was actually six years ago. I can't believe it's been so long; I actually wrote this shortly after Schuyler's diagnosis, when we lived in New Haven, Connecticut.

Anyway, I remembered it as being amusing, and you know how I live to amuse, so here it is, along with a short followup.


October 8, 2003

I was looking ahead on Schuyler's social calendar and realized that her day care is going to be closed on the 13th. (Child-nappers, take note: not a good day to grab her.) When I did some probing investigation (i.e. asked someone), I was surprised to learn that the center (and presumedly a bunch of other stuff) will be closed because of Columbus Day.

Columbus Day? I was sort of surprised to learn that Columbus Day is still a national holiday, much less one where people get to stay home and drink beer. I guess I figured that Columbus had been tossed out in a blaze of political correctness, which actually would be fine with me. I'm not sure many of the indigenous populations he "discovered" would be inclined to throw a barbecue in his honor. I can't imagine that "Smallpox Day" is a popular holiday in the Bahamas.

I'm not sure why we even bother with Columbus Day, really. He's not much of a role model, after all. He mooched money off of swishy inbred monarchs in order to finance his expeditions. He was a failure as an administrator of the lands and peoples he subjugated. He was famous in his day as a visionary and a skilled mariner, but history has judged Columbus as a greedy, ruthless imperialist, a bit of a religious kook, and the earliest vanguard of the European plunder of the New World. He was brutal to the native population, even trying at one point to introduce them as slaves to Spain. Perhaps most importantly, he never actually set foot on the North American mainland and was never shaken from his belief that he had reached Asia.

So it would seem that Columbus was a bit of a doofus. ("Hi, I'm Columbus, your host. Welcome to Japan!") But of course, the main problem with celebrating Columbus as the European discoverer of America is that he was beaten to the punch by about five centuries.

We shouldn't be celebrating Columbus Day. We should be celebrating Viking Day.

Vikings reached North America around the year 1000, probably led by either Leif Ericson or his son, and for a decade or so they stomped around and presumedly set shit on fire and engaged in lots of indiscriminate recreational killing. The Vikings even tried to establish a colony for about three years before getting sick of fighting with Indians and returning to pillage boring old Europe again.

Vikings in America! How cool is that? I imagine them getting out of their long Viking boats, with their big beards and their horned helmets and furry boots and big giant monster axes and swords. They jump out of their boats, look around menacingly, and then say "YAR!" and start killing everything and setting shit on fire. They run around killing bears and and biting the heads off of rabbits, and then they see some gentle Indians walking out of the forest bearing gifts of welcome. The Vikings say "YAR!" again and start killing all the Indians. They pillage and burn and destroy, then they sit around a big fire eating some of the animals they slaughtered, wiping their big greasy hands on their new pelts.

I imagine the Indians looking out of the woods at them and thinking, "Oh man. White people. This isn't going to end well."

So yeah. I think Vikings are a much better representation of the American spirit. They sailed around and invaded other countries, burning stuff and killing people and generally being a pain in the ass. They were primitive barbarian badasses who drank wine out of human skulls. And unlike Columbus and the "explorers" who followed him, Vikings didn't pretend like they were doing their victims a favor. They pillaged, but they were up front about it, at least. I think that as Americans, we've sort of lost our way in that respect.

Viking Day. Think about it. Yar!


June 9, 2004

I'm always interested and amused at the unexpected things that draw people's ire from my writing.

Do you remember the entry (one of my favorites, honestly; it's one of the very few times that I managed to crack myself up) where I wrote about Columbus Day and the Vikings? I wrote about how the Vikings beat Columbus to the New World by about five centuries and made better role models for Americans anyway.

Now, this wasn't an entry that I expected to receive much irritated email about. If anything, I thought I might get some sort of "what's a mattah YOU?" email from some proud Italian-American out there (remember that episode of The Sopranos?), but what I DIDN'T expect to get instead was a stern correction from a Viking re-enactor (I swear to God) who wasn't happy about my representation of Vikings. They didn't wear horned helmets, she said, and didn't rape and kill indiscriminately, and CERTAINLY didn't drink wine from skulls. (She could have been right about that last part, I might have made it up.)

I guess my point is that I never know what's going to piss someone off, and it is honestly one of the reasons I keep writing online. It's like some sort of wacky social experiment that I'm carrying out on YOU, my Slobbering Minions. (I did have someone unsubscribe from my notify list because she didn't like being called a Slobbering Minion. That was perhaps less surprising than the Viking thing, now that I think about it.)

Incidentally, I'll admit that the wine drinking from human skulls thing was probably bogus, but I'm standing firm on the horned helmets. I mean, how else would people know that the barbarians burning down their village were actually Vikings? It's not like you'd want to go to all that trouble, only to have someone ask you, "Hey, who are you guys? Visigoths?"

It's all about the uniform.


H said...

Thank you for this - I missed it the first time and I think it is hilarious! Don't they wear purple and worship Brett Favre?

KF said...

I totally remember this post, and I remember thinking "hey, that's not right" about the horny helmets and all - though I don't remember if it was me that mouthed off about it. Today, I find it funny and worthwhile and a far better thing to celebrate (no matter how inaccurately) than the arrival of Columbus-doofus.

I love your take on the vikings, their arrival, and the holiday. So if it was me that got all foot-stampy... allow me to issue forth a resounding "Yar" in it's place. Yar.

Cheryl said...

*quiety, from the back of the class*

Um, I don't suppose you could put me in touch with your Viking re-enactor?

mileena said...

Slobbering Minion shirt! Yes please!

Mike Licht said...

Today is "Native American Day" in South Dakota.

Discovered: New painting of Columbus.

See: http://notionscapital.wordpress.com/2009/10/12/columbus-day/

Gwensarah said...

that made me laugh..no small feat on a day that has been absolute shite. actually, I remember that a great many of Ye Olde Entries made me laugh like a goon (not always a good thing since I usually used to read at work!) I don't suppose some of the ones not locked away for book reasons could ever be put back out there? Although I confess to using the Wayback Internet thingie to troll some of the stuff taken down.

Olive said...

You totally crack me up. It's all about the uniform....hee hee....I need to use that some time.

-amylia- said...

This made me think of you, Rob--as a long-time outspoken intelligent, opinionated online blogger, I thought you'd appreciate the sentiment: http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/duty_calls.png

C said...

ROFL. Srsly.