Friday, November 15, 2019

The October Holiday - a month late

"Dignity" Chamberlain, SD
"There was much discussion last month about what has traditionally been called Columbus Day. Many places have started celebrating Indigenous People's Day instead. As with much these days, it's become a binary choice, one or the other. Instead. I would like to propose we celebrate both.

The more we learn of Columbus, the more we see the cruelty and violence that he brought with him--the enslavement, raping, and pillaging. All true and reprehensible to us 500 years later.
"Christopher Columbus" Providence, RI

The native people had been living on the lands we call America for centuries when this band of Europeans and those who followed them (or preceded--consider Leif Erikson) came with a belief that it was their God-given right to conquer and take what they found.

Today we are quick to label and condemn those years ago who did not live up to our current moral principles. I sometimes wish I could jump into a time machine just to see what behaviors we accept  today as normal, even honorable, that would be condemned by future societies. What if, for example, it were discovered that our great feat of landing a man on the moon had somehow disturbed the cosmos in ways we cannot imagine today? Wouldn't the people of the future be quick to castigate us?

Columbus, like all humans, was complicated. He was motivated by ego and greed, and his actions towards the natives were inexcusable to us. But he was also brave and determined, and led the way for a greater and greater understanding of the planet we share.

Ironically we are also only beginning to discover lessons the indigenous understood--the importance of sharing the earth and protecting it for future generations. These lessons are 
critical to our very survival.

Maybe we should rename the October holiday Discovery Day in which we celebrate what we continue to learn about the Earth and all its people.

Monday, November 11, 2019


November 11, 1918

She was learning to read.
Every day she carried home
new words and calculations--
offerings to the grandmother
who signed her name with an X.

She first heard the news
from the kids at Eastern Avenue School
then from the neighbors.
The Great War was over.
The boys were coming home.

People filled the streets
shouting, banging pots and pans.
It was a noisier than the Fourth of July.
The war to end all wars was over.
Smiles were everywhere.

But once inside, she found
her grandmother in tears.
She tried to tell her the news--
today's lesson to share,
but Grandma had already heard.

She knew the fighting had stopped
that soldiers were coming home.
Her tears were for the others--
the boys lost far from home
and the mothers still waiting.

At six how could she understand
a mother's grief over a lost child?
This illiterate woman who remembered
the baby drowned back in Ireland
was well schooled in suffering.