It’s Time to Rename Columbus Day

Every year we as a nation honor someone who came to this land, oppressed its people, and plundered its wealth. It’s no wonder we aren’t revolting over government shutdown.

Leif Ericson by Gunnlaugur Þór BriemI’m not going to spend this post outlining the travesties that Columbus is responsible for visiting upon this the Americas as you’ve probably seen the Columbus infographic. I’m also not going to back the rightful claim that Leif Ericson had discovered our continent about 500 years before him or that an Irish monk may have been to the Americas another 300 years before him. None of them can hold a match to the people who crossed the Bering Straits land bridge over 10,000 years before that and grew to be one fifth of the world’s population by 1492.

Instead I want to point out that it’s not like we can budget back a holiday. It’s out there and everyone’s planned around it. Instead, we need to rename and re-dedicate it. While I can’t condone the actions of Christopher Columbus, I can commend his intent to push back the veil of what is unknown and risk his life and reputation in the pursuit of it. He’s not alone in that respect, nor are Leif, Sir Francis Drake, or Lewis and Clark. They are pioneers in the field of physical navigation.

Last week Scott Carpenter joined them in Shakespeare’s “undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns.” He and his cohort, living and dead, air and space, should receive the same reverence as Columbus has enjoyed.

Physical navigation is not the only exploration that should be honored. Those who have explored the microscopic and have revolutionized our lives should also be honored. Even Columbus benefited from Eratosthenes’ discovery that the world was round in 240BC, making the voyage much safer than the story my school teachers taught me.

This should be a day where we hold up scientists, technologists, pilots, astronauts, and sailors for their role in making us what we are today. There are a lot of people who share the idea to rename Columbus Day to Exploration Day to honor all of those who have given so much (that way you can pick and choose which ones you want to honor).

Normally I’d reference a link to a petition on, but as only essential staffing levels are currently active, here is a Change.Org petition for re-dedicating Exploration Day you can sign instead.

And for those of you that think this is too hippy for you, think of it this way: Eventually someone’s going to suggest that we honor all these astronauts and scientists in the same way we have 2 days of the year for America’s military. Wouldn’t you prefer to already have a day for it so that the government couldn’t take another day off?

Leif Ericson photo courtesy of Gunnlaugur Þór Briem