Although tomorrow is the federal holiday, today is the real anniversary of Christopher Columbus stumbling across the "new world" as he searched for a shorter trade route to Asia. For most cities, gone are the days when we'd mark this holiday with parades and time off. Those of us who grew up in the 70's and later have likely rethought this holiday.
What marked an exciting opportunity for overcrowded Europeans in the time of Columbus began a time of unspeakable slaughter and loss for the inhabitants of the Americas, many of whom have never recovered or who disappeared completely.
We could also celebrate this day in the name of religious freedom, including the option not to practice any religion. We could remember that day in 1492 as the beginning of a time of enormous religious expansion, first for the Catholics and later for Protestants, many of whom needed a place to escape religious persecution. We could feel sorrow at the religious persecution of the Natives and of various other minority groups--or we could celebrate the religious diversity and tolerance that somehow survived our best efforts to kill it.
We could celebrate the ways that various cultures were enriched. Look at the European cuisine before the time of Columbus, and let yourself feel enormous gratitude for the vegetables that came from the Americas. Look at the cultures that existed in the Americas before the Europeans arrived and let yourself marvel at the ways in which technology enables the building of cities.
Or maybe we want to leave humans out of the picture and once again marvel at this amazing planet which is our home, at its diversity of land, water, and weather, at the currents that swirl through the oceans and the air, at the abundance of natural resources just waiting for us to stumble over them on our quest for something different.
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