America was inhabited already when Columbus blundered his way into the West Indies. They are called the West Indies, in case you didn’t know, because he thought he had sailed all the way around the world to Japan, China, and India. Seriously. He was convinced that San Salvador was Japan, and Cuba was China.
Columbus wasn’t a great thinker. Contrary to what school teachers were still telling us when I was in grade school, Europeans had known for centuries that the world was round. And Pythagoras and Aristotle had both deduced that the Earth was a sphere because of the shape of the Earth’s shadow on the moon during Lunar eclipses. Eratosthenes calculated the size of the Earth pretty accurately based on shadows at different latitudes more than 200 years before the time of Christ (He also correctly deduced the tilt of the Earth’s axis a bit later).
Columbus thought that Eratosthenes was wrong, that the Earth was much smaller, and that it would take only a short time sailing west to reach Asia. He was very wrong. And not just because there were two continents Europe didn’t know about.
And then there was the abominable way the Columbus and the Europeans that followed treated the people who lived here. It was not, as some of my other teachers used to say, merely that the Europeans had more advanced technology. The Europeans were fond of making written agreements with the people who already lived here, and then when it suited them, ignore the agreements and take, kill, or pillage whatever they wanted.
So, yeah, even though I am a pasty-skinned, blue-eyeed white guy with ancestors from places like Ireland, England, and France, count me as one of the people who celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day.
The movement to replace Columbus Day with a holiday honoring Native Americans have been around for a long time. In 1989 the state of South Dakota abolished the state observance of Columbus Day and enacted a Native American Day to be observed on the same day as the Federal Observance fo Columbus Day.
Several other states: California, Nevada, and Tennessee all observe a Native American Day in September (the California holiday first called for by then-Governor Ronald Reagan in 1968, though not enacted into law until 1998).
Governors in Alaska and Vermont (and probably others, but I haven’t found them, yet) have issued proclamations to declare and Indigenous Peoples Day, but neither state’s legislature has enacted it into law, and such proclamation tend to be ceremonial, usually assumed only to apply to the year issued.
On the other hand, a rather huge number of cities and towns all over the country have adopted ordinances replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Maybe when more follow more states will join South Dakota.
This year we came very close to canceling the Thanksgiving trip, because the anti-Hillary/pro-Trump talk in general seems to have encouraged the most bigoted relatives to go all in on the anti-gay talk on social media. Since the big extended family get-together no longer happens, we don’t usually have to deal with any of the actually toxic family members. Instead we’re left with the odd thoughtless/unintentional comments that slowly make your blood boil. We were invited to spend Thanksgiving with wonderful, supportive friends in Seattle, and the invitations were very tempting, but we’ve decided to give the trip to my Mom’s place another go.
We’ve just arranged the trip so we don’t need to stay all day.
Anyway, I hope that you can have a toxin-free holiday. And we may throw a spontaneous Second Thanksgiving later this weekend if we think we need a brain-rinse!
“The holidays are here — which for most people means lots of food and lots of family. But for many queer and trans people of color, the word “family” means something entirely different.”
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
Our plans for this evening are to do the usual handing out of candy while we watch some spooky movies. The movie plans are Young Frankenstein and The Three Stooges in Orbit. I usually pick out three movies, but Michael never stays awake for the third. And at midnight I’m supposed to start NaNoWriMo (even if I can’t stay up very far past midnight, since it is a work night), so we’ll probably stick with just the two. We’ll see. It’s not as if it’s very difficult to pick another movie out of the 970-or-so that my hubby has uploaded into our digital library from our vast disc collection…Because of the weirdness happening with our building being sold, we had been asked not to do some of the outdoor decorations that we usually do this time of year. This has had a dampening effect on my mood, so I haven’t even put the plastic light-up jack-o-lanterns in the windows, let alone any other decorations. I need to shake the funk soon–at least before Christmas decorating time!
I hope we get a few more trick-or-treaters than last year. I realize I’ll increase the odds if I manage to get at least some decorations up before sundown. I’m currently planning to slip out of the office early to make sure I’m home before then, so there is still hope. Some years we get a lot, but usually it’s a few handfuls. One of the problems is that a lot of other folks on our street don’t do the candy thing and/or their houses have no decorations so our whole block often looks gloomy and deserted.
Though truthfully, as long as we get more than we did the year a neighbor parked a huge U-Haul truck in front of our place and spent the evening trying to get moved out of their apartment (we got exactly one person – my godchild, who doesn’t live in the neighborhood, but would be brought to our place and to the homes of some relatives of their other godparent who lives nearby).
I love handing out the full size candy bars. And I love seeing kids in costumes. Especially the younger ones who get so, so excited when I kneel down and hold out the bowl packed with big candy bars! As my husband likes to say, “Fun size isn’t!”
Anyway, if you celebrate Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, or the Day of the Dead, I hope that it is a great holiday for you. And if you’re feeling a little down, enjoy this clip from the Woodland Park Zoo of an otter and a jack-o-lantern:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
But especially because of those racist reasons that have prevented a Federal holiday recognizing Lincoln, I think it’s important to remember that this holiday is not Presidents’ Day, unless you’re in one of the 10 states that have a state holiday this day which is called President’s Day (my state isn’t one of them). Five states still recognize a state holiday for Lincoln (Illinois, California, Connecticut, Missouri, and New York), though schools and state offices often remain open on that day.
And don’t get me started on the fact that because Washington’s Birthday Observance happens on the third Monday of February, George’s actual birthday, February 22, never lands on his Federal holiday. For shame!
While Here Comes Santa Claus isn’t particularly my favorite Christmas song, it is fun to sing, and that particular recording has some fun orchestration, so I thought he was just appreciating the song. When it reached the end he said, “Disgusting!” and launched into a tirade about how secularism was destroying Christmas. Also, how could I listen to such blasphemous music?
The lyrics he objected to first were: “Santa knows that we’re God’s children, that makes everything right.” He felt it was telling children they weren’t going to hell just because Santa said so. Which I could understand where he was coming from, but it seemed more than a bit of a stretch. I pointed out that, first, it’s a children’s song, and second it wasn’t really that different than the sentiments expressed in a lot of hymns. Under the theology of the churches we both attended, if you were a born again Christian, then you were one of God’s children, et cetera.
His angry response was that most of the people who heard this song weren’t saved, though. And it would lead children astray. I quoted the lyrics of a few of his favorite christian songs, and pointed out that they weren’t all that different, but it didn’t mollify him. It just got him even more worked up.
He had other issues, such as the part of the song where it told children to pray to Santa. I pointed out it said no such thing, “Hang your stocking and say your prayers” meant to say your usual bedtime prayers, which lots of children in the sorts of churches we attend were expect to say every night.
Then he jumped to the part that pissed him off most: “Let’s give thanks to the lord above, ’cause Santa Claus comes tonight!” He was really upset about the notion of thanking god for Santa, and seemed to think that was the most blasphemous of all. I asked him how it was blasphemous to thank god for good things that happened, and his response was a rather confusing thing about myths and false gods. It just made no sense to me.
I had been thinking it was all pretty funny up until this point, but he was getting livid. And so I pushed back a bit harder than I probably ought. The girl he was dating (who eventually became his wife) was from a family that went to an even more fervent evangelical church than the one I attended. And they were one of those families who said, “Praise the Lord!” all the time. Any time that anything good happened, one would say, “Praise the Lord!” and the others would chime in with various affirmations.
And I do mean anything. Kid gets a decent grade at school? “Praise the Lord!” Bee buzzes around your head when you’re in the garden, but never stings you? “Praise the Lord!” Car starts (any car, one that is brand new and has never shown any signs of trouble)? “Praise the Lord!” Open a can of soda without it spraying all over everything? “Praise the Lord!” Successfully get the lid of the toothpaste back on the first try? “Praise the Lord!”
They were hardly the first family that did that, but it always had seemed a bit over the top. So, I mentioned them, and asked how it was any different than the song suggesting people thank god for the presents they were going to get on Christmas morning. I went further, and quoted Matthew 6:5, “And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.” I suggested that his girlfriend’s family—and anyone who was constantly repeating “Praise the Lord!” at every little thing—were being like that: doing it because they wanted people to see them and know how devout they were. So, if he wasn’t objecting to that, he could hardly be justified getting wound up about a children’s Christmas song.
I should point out that I didn’t believe his girlfriend was some egotistical hypocrite. As it happens, I’d known her longer than he had. I’d even dated her, once. She was one of the sweetest people I had ever met. Still is, actually. But he was just so angry at Here Comes Santa Claus that I couldn’t help it. And I did think he was being hypocritical.
The real problem was, I think, that afternoon may have been the first time in his entire life he had heard Here Comes Santa Claus. At least in a setting where he could actually hear all the lyrics. I’d learned some time before that until he joined the touring choir and we started rehearsing our annual Christmas concert that he hadn’t been familiar with really any Christmas songs. His family wasn’t the type to own Christmas albums, or sing carols around the tree, and so on.
Another part was his family had never been religious, at all. He had been raised in a pretty anti-church home, in fact. He’d been converted to Christianity in junior high, after some incidents where he’d gotten into somewhat serious trouble at school. He always seemed to be trying to make up for his supposedly misspent youth. Given that at the time this conversation happened, he was 19 years old, he wasn’t exactly an old man looking back on decades of debauchery, but he could get that crusader’s gleam in his eye sometimes.
I’m sure that he believes that one of the reasons I’m a queer bound for hell now is because I listened to songs such as Here Comes Santa Claus without being offended. Whereas I still can’t wrap my head around how, with all of the pain, suffering, inequality, hunger, and war going on in the world, the things that people like him get most revved up with righteous fury about are Christmas song lyrics or nativity scenes on public property or whether someone says “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays.”
As silly as it is, I really think this Christmas carol is a lot closer to the true meaning of Christmas than those war on Christmas screeds:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
We had some of my husband’s relatives in town over Memorial Day weekend, and as we were driving somewhere on Memorial Day itself, I mentioned how my Grandmother had insisted on calling it “Decoration Day” her entire life. That she had, in fact, died literally in the middle of putting silk flowers on the grave of my Great-aunt Maud on the Friday before Memorial Day, because to her the holiday had always been about putting flowers on the graves of all of your family members who had passed away, and having a family gathering to celebrate the lives of our loved ones no longer with us. To which my sister-in-law said, “That’s how I grew up celebrating it, too! Sometimes with a picnic at the cemetery.”
It was later that I saw a cartoon that talked about how every even vaguely-patriot holiday seems to be inexorably transformed into Veteran’s Day: so Memorial Day is now Veteran’s Day May, Independence Day is now Veteran’s Day July, Labor Day is sometimes Veteran’s Day September, and the actual Veteran’s Day is now merely Veteran’s Day November.
If Flag Day joins that list I’m going to start slapping people.
I saw that a lot of news sites had posted articles like this one: Why you shouldn’t confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Of course, I thought that maybe the cartoon was going a bit far when it suggested people were confusing Labor Day with Veterans day, until I saw this story: Get it straight: The difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day which mentions seeing “thank the troops” events being scheduled on Labor Day.
This lunacy must stop. I know that my own wish to keep the original (and it does predate the declaration of the first memorial day for troops issued by General Logan in 1868 by decades) meaning of the May holiday as a day to commemorate the lives of all of our loved ones who have died is probably a lost battle. But this re-defining of patriotism as supporting the troops (which has itself already very unpatriotically been re-defined as supporting the notion of sending troops to die to further political aims rather than to actually defend the nation), and therefore coopting all other commemorations of our nation’s history and principles into yet another chance to thank the troops, isn’t just annoying, it’s dangerous.
We’re currently in the middle of a war on “terror” which is being used by government officials of both parties to trample all over our civil rights and the Constitution itself. The vast transfer of completely inappropriate military hardware to police departments is a direct result of this ill-conceived and poorly-defined war. A war which is not being waged against an actual threat, but merely the idea of possible threats. And the escalating violence by police against the citizens they are supposed to protect is enabled and excused because of a myth we’ve been sold that these are people risking their lives to protect us, therefore we must support the cops, because not doing so would be the same as not supporting the troops, and we already know that all patriots always support the troops.
And let’s not forget the actual men and women in uniform who were sent to Iraq because of lies (which Bush administration officials are finally admitting they were intentional lies), far too many of whom have come home wounded, maimed, and otherwise in need of care which our congresscritters seem unwilling to pay for. I’m still one of those weirdos who thinks that the first step in supporting the troops is not to vote for politicians who authorized military action when it isn’t needed, and not to vote for those who don’t adequately fund veterans’ hospitals, et cetera.
We don’t have the funds to pay returning veterans a living wage or get them proper medical care, but we do have money to pay for things like this: US Defense Department paid 14 NFL teams $5.4M to honor soldiers. The NFL didn’t give free tickets to those soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines. Each of those tickets was paid for by your tax dollars! And the tickets are a fraction of the amount paid to the league. But the money is well spent, according to the folks who approved the contracts, because it’s a great recruiting tool.
So we are paying a very successful business millions of tax dollars to pretend to be patriotic in order to distract us from asking questions about why those troops are being sent into harm’s way and to lure more people into volunteering to be sent into harm’s way. You can’t get more capitalist or cynical than that!
Let’s stop blurring the lines between the holidays. Let’s stop blurring the lines between supporting the troops and supporting the politicians and industries that profit from exploiting the troops. Let’s stop blurring patriotism into cynicism—while we still can!
A friend recently posed a question online about how many of his friends and acquaintances who read that blog enjoyed the holidays. I first responded with a simple, “Do I really need to answer this?” because I figured that he knows me well enough to know how crazy I go with Christmas decorations and such.
I saw only a couple of other replies before one mutual acquaintance posted that he doesn’t like holidays, and has often wondered if the “joyful people” are brain-damaged or perhaps have butlers to handle all the stressful tasks.