12 October 2008

Why Columbus Day is more important than you think

Columbus Day, typically believed to be October 12th and, like most other holidays in this country, has been reduced to merely being observed on the Nth Monday of the month. The original purpose of the holiday was to mark and celebrate the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus and, by extension, western civilization.

However, we now know that Columbus didn't discover America. It was, in fact, right where the Irish, Scandinavians, and Portuguese would have told him it was, had he actually bothered to ask them.

So, why celebrate this day of discovery (or invasion, as certain groups are want to call it)? Simple, the day also marks a triumph in the ever-continuous battle between truth-seeking science and power-mongering religion.


When Columbus' fleet set sail from Spain in 1492, he didn't just embark on a journey to extend Spain's imperial reach (although, that is how he sold the trip to the Spanish crown), he set forth on a journey of faith. Not faith in God, but faith in science. He set forth to prove that the pope and his minions were wrong and that the Earth was actually the sphere the ancient texts claimed it to be. And, upon landing in the West Indies, he shattered the lock and chain which the Roman Catholic church had used to bind the truth.

So, for that, Cristoforo, old boy, I salute you. Happy anniversary.

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