The Day That Dare Not Speak Its Name!

Warning: This blog contains information about events that happened over 500 years ago.  It acknowledges their existence and does not apologize.  This blog contains humour, satire and ideas that could provoke thought and is intended for a sophisticated audience.  Therefore, it may not be suitable for university sophomores or adults who act like them.  Reader discretion is advised.

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Shhh!  (I wish my computer had a whisper font, but anyway…)

Yesterday was Columbus Day.

[Serious Silence!]

I know, I know: I’m pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable, but that’s just the way I roll.  Besides, I have a burning need to set the record straight before Chris disappears from the North American landscape.  (I’m lookin’ at you, Columbus, Ohio!)  Here’s the deal.  In my lifetime, Christopher Columbus has gone from being a determined, visionary explorer, willing to put his life on the line to expand the collective knowledge of the world to being – uh – an asshole.  It’s a spectacular fall from grace.  Unfortunately, the social justice lynch mob who dragged the guy off his pedestal and put the boots to him got the wrong man.  Saying Columbus is responsible for the last 5 centuries of Western Hemisphere history is like saying a person who bought a ticket to get into the stadium is responsible for the football game.  That’s idiotic!

First of all, Columbus only crossed the Atlantic four times, he probably never set foot on South America and sure as hell never get north of the Rio Grande.  Secondly, the boy was basically lost.  He always insisted that India was just over the horizon and had no idea there were two gigantic continents in the way.  (It’s a good trick to be a total dick to millions of people when you don’t even know they exist!)  And finally — and here’s where the vegan ate the liverwurst — the guy died in 1506.  That was 10 years before Cortez showed up in Mexico, over 20 before Pizarro and his band of cutthroats visited the Andes and over 100 (that’s an entire century!) before Powhatan turned to Pocahontas and said, “You stay away from those Europeans!  Mark my words, young lady: they’re going to be nothing but trouble!”  The truth is Columbus was out of the rape and pillage business before it ever even got started.

So, how did Columbus become the supervillain of America history?  One simple reason — convenience!

Deny it or not, in the 21st century, we’re wading in the shallow end of the intellectual swimming pool.  Most people don’t know enough history to fill a mouse’s ear.  Names like Coronado, De Soto and Mendoza mean nothing, and people are perfectly content to live with that ignorance.  (After all, it’s a lot more fun to take a Facebook quiz about Disney Princesses than read a boring essay on dead Europeans!)  However, there is one dead European everybody knows: Christopher Columbus.  Meanwhile, when the good folks of North America recently found out that the indigenous people of this hemisphere have spent the last few centuries getting screwed, they started looking around for someone to blame.  (In our video culture, the villains are clearly marked.)  And take one guess who they looked at first?  The only one they knew: Christopher Columbus.  Ipso facto, he must be the bad guy.

So, so long Christopher Columbus; it’s been nice knowing you.  In a few years, you’re going to be as forgotten as Olaf the Ugly, that unknown Norseman who actually got to North America.

July 4 – Special Edition

people

Today is the 4th of July, American Independence Day.  And there isn’t a person on this planet who doesn’t have a strong opinion about The Land of Milk and Money – everything from the last bastion of liberty to the first convulsions of a dying giant.  However, today is not the day for that debate, and as much as contemporary passions don’t concern themselves with facts, unfortunately, to quote John Adams, “Facts are stubborn things” – they just won’t go away.

So, yes, there is a lot wrong with the world’s oldest surviving democracy, but here are just a very few “facts” that seldom get a mention these days.

There are more museums, art galleries and live theatres in the United States than in any other nation in the world.

The US has more public libraries (read: free) than the rest of the world combined.

There are 3 times as many teachers in America as there are police officers.

And, unlike most places on this planet, on average, university professors in America earn more than Army generals.

Those professors work at American universities which spend mega-money on research.  There is more medical and scientific research conducted in the United States than in any other country.

In fact, in 2018, the top 10 US schools alone spent over 11 billion dollars studying everything from laser surgery to micro agriculture.  And here’s the best part.  Nearly 90% of that research is available to the world – for free.  All you have to do is ask.

Meanwhile, there are nearly 2 million registered volunteer agencies in America (and that doesn’t include all the ad hoc local groups, who run bake sales, sell raffle tickets, plant community gardens, visit seniors, etc., etc., etc.)  In all, over 70 million Americans do some kind of recognized volunteer work every year.  That’s nearly 20% of the population – far more than in any other country in the world.

In 2015, the top ten charities in America raised and distributed over $26 billion dollars.  That’s more than the next three most generous nations (New Zealand, Canada and the UK) combined.

And not to be out done, American corporations, the capitalist bogeyman of sophomores everywhere, contributed more money, material and in- kind work hours to charity than any other country.

In all, it’s estimated that Americans donate 258 billion dollars — that’s $258,000,000,000.00 — to charities (domestic and foreign) every year.

Plus, in 2016, the United States paid 10 billion of the roughly 50 billion dollar United Nations operating budget.  That kind of money goes a long way to keeping IFAD, ILO, UNESCO, UNICEF and UN Women going.  By contrast, China, the world largest nation, paid $1.3 billion and Vladimir Putin’s Russia paid a measly $562 million.

And every year, the US government gives – GIVES – over $30 billion in non-military foreign aid to countries around the world.  FYI, nearly one billion of that goes to free vaccinations for children.  That’s free money, folks — courtesy of the American taxpayer.  It comes from the woman who drives the truck.  The guy with 3 kids in school.  The barista working the night shift.  The recent college graduate with 2 part-time jobs, a useless boyfriend and a student loan.  It comes from the architect, the nurse, the butcher, the baker and even the candlestick maker.  It comes from the millions of Americans who never show up on the news.

Over the last 244 years, since John Hancock and the boys signed the Declaration of Independence, US presidents, policies and perceptions have changed many times.  However, ordinary Americans have always maintained a remarkable ability to cope, an incredible desire to help — at home and around the world — and an extraordinary willingness to share their good fortune.

 

Happy Birthday, America!