Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day Wrangle

About 517 years have passed since Christopher Columbus stumbled onto North America, and it's time to remember that with a three-day weekend.

Well, for some of us. While national government offices can be depended upon to celebrate a federal holiday, Columbus Day isn't a day off for all Americans. Some schools will stay open, and local bureaucrats will still shuffle paperwork ... but the department store sales soldier on.

Looking back, the formal recognition of Columbus Day is relatively recent. New York City threw the first recorded Columbus party in 1792, but it took New Yorkers 74 years for another big celebration. Then, Colorado scooted in to become the first state to have a Columbus Day (1905). President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided the Depression could use a new holiday, and made Oct. 12 a federal one in 1937. Under President Richard M. Nixon, Columbus Day got moved to the second Monday in October.

According to the Wall Street Journal, 22 states don't observe the holiday. Why the disparity? Well, among other reasons, a strong contingent feels that the Genoese navigator's sailing the ocean blue in 1492 introduced a dark period of colonization. Protesters and academics have argued for years that the existing American population, plus earlier evidence of Viking houseguests, make the notion of "discovery" misleading.

These impassioned arguments around Columbus go back decades before any holiday: efforts to make the Italian navigator a candidate for sainthood inspired a tart New York Times editorial that said Columbus got his "fleets at public expense, on the condition that he remove himself and his tediousness as far as possible toward the unknown west."

Wait a minute... America's honored "discoverer" was a Socialist?

Some states have long just "observed" the holiday, but leave local government offices open. Others use the date to revere the native population who existed long before the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria sailed in. According to a Wikipedia round-up, South Dakota declares October 12 as Indigenous People's Day. Hawaii celebrates the more general Discoverers' Day, which actually refers to the Aloha State's Polynesian founders (although the bureaucrats firmly emphasize "this day is not and shall not be construed to be a state holiday").

Tennessee, though, wins for creative calendaring: The Wall Street Journal (link above) points out that the state bumped Columbus Day to after Thanksgiving to create a four-day weekend. Indeed, the explorer's day leads in "holiday swapping"—work on that October date, get another day off later in the holiday season.

Update: Irregular contributor Open Source Dem sends this along ...

(T)he weirdest thing is the possibility, likelihood actually, that Columbus was a Secret Jew and began what would later become Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean, including, yes, Jean Laffite!

Here's the weekly roundup of the best posts from the Texas Progressive Alliance from last week.

This week on Left of College Station, Teddy writes about what it is like to share a birthday with a war and how we have been unable to learn from the mistakes we have made during the last eight years. In the weekly guest column about teaching in Aggieland, Litia writes about the reasons why they are a teacher. Left of College Station also covers the week in headlines.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notices that Republicans running Texas agencies don't care whether doctors are bad as long as you can't sue.

WhosPlayin investigated complaints by parents that schools were allowing church groups on campus during lunch hour to proselytize, while preventing parents from accessing their kids.

Communities all across the nation are watching DISH, Texas to learn how natural gas drilling is threatening our health but TXsharon at Bluedaze wants to be sure you don't forget about the public meeting Monday, October 12th at 7:00PM.

Neil at Texas Liberal wrote about a 17th-century book by Rhode Island founder Roger Williams that was ahead of its time in offering respect for Native Americans and women.

The Texas Cloverleaf watches as Denton County comes out for LGBT equality.

Justin at Asian American Action Fund Blog provides detailed coverage of the Houston Asian American Mayoral Forum.

Off the Kuff notes that at least some conservative candidates are not interested in learning from the mistakes of others.

At Texas Vox read about how Tom Craddick laundered money through Jobs PAC to House Dems, and Texans for Public Justice files a complaint.

Over at McBlogger, Captain Kroc takes a look at the latest GOP plot to make people think they actually care about the poor.

Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman announced her retirement, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs threw the names of a few Democratic and Republican potential successors into the rumor mill.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson writes that TxDOT again says the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) is dead, but how many times will it die?.

Over at Texas Kaos, Libby Shaw asks: Republicans Are On Board with Corporate Communism?. They can't make up their minds, but it is sadly funny to read about.

Burnt Orange Report explores the value, or lack thereof, of proposing an opt-out of the public option as a strategy to pass the health care bill out of the U.S. Senate.

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