October 10, 2011

Our most confused national holiday

Listen to Walter Russell Mead

Happy Columbus Day (Observed)

The usual grumblings attend the day on which we commemorate the most famous illegal immigrant in the history of the Americas, an undocumented wanderer from Spain who brought plagues, fire and the sword from the Old World to the New.

Columbus Day is our most confused holiday celebration, one in which the public understanding of the day has shifted the farthest from the intent of those who instituted the observance. Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World on October 12, 1492 only became a federal holiday in the US in 1934
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The day was made a holiday after years of lobbying as a way of recognizing the contribution of Roman Catholics and immigrants generally to American life.  It is a holiday to celebrate diversity....
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Columbus Day is not an imperialistic holiday.  It is a celebration of American diversity, a long overdue recognition of the importance of Catholics and immigrants in American life.  It is a celebration we share with our Hispanic neighbors in the New World and it is a day that testifies to our growing understanding that religious and ethnic pluralism aren’t problems for our American heritage; pluralism is central to our identity as a people.

That American Indian activists want to use the day to make a point is OK with me; they have a point to make.  But Columbus Day is a holiday that was created to celebrate the dignity and equality of Americans regardless of origin or creed, and that in my view is an excellent reason for the country to take the day off.
Posted by Jill Fallon at October 10, 2011 1:32 PM | Permalink