Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Columbus Day: A Less Popular Perspective !

Jay Winter Nightwolf
On the Air, WPFW 89.3
October 8, 2012
Each year we look at this day that has been traditionally observed as Columbus Day to observe the birthday of the man who, from a Euro-American perspective, is credited with having "discovered" the Americas.  It's also seen by indigenous peoples as Indigenous Day, a time to celebrate the survival of indigenous peoples.  To some it is a day of mourning.
One cannot, should not, deny that Columbus' voyages resulted in the decimation of indigenous peoples through disease, enslavement and genocide.  In addition to forcing into extinction entire tribal groups, flora and fauna native to the New World were also decimated.  The African slave trade was launched.  A new religion was forced on both indigenous peoples and Africans-a religion that permeated not only perspectives of what and who God was, but how that played out in global politics-indeed, the Doctrine of Discovery, based on Papal law, became the foundation of policies that subjugated indigenous peoples, those of African descent, and along with them, their lands, animals, plants, and every aspect of their lives.  To this day, both are still struggling with the consequences.
Europe was a dangerous place in Columbus' time.  It had just begun to recover from plagues that had killed over 25 million people-a plague that came over from Asia, aboard a boat that carried rodents that carried fleas-that wiped out a continent-sound familiar?  Two cultures-the Moors and the Jewish people-had been driven from the communities they'd flourished in and contributed to for generations.  But not before they were subjected to persecution, torture, murder-not being a Christian in the late 1400s was a dangerous thing.
The Inquisition made sure of that.  Europe's dysfunction needed to fuel itself with riches, and Columbus' voyage was going to find a quicker way to get them.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Or His-Story-and we all know it isn't a pretty one.  The Inquisition, while winding down in Europe, found a new home in the Americas.
But nothing ever happens, no matter how terrible, how painful, or how tragic, without a flip side.  And over 500 years after Columbus, as we observe this day, from whatever perspective, it might also serve us to turn away from the tragedy, if only for a few minutes, and recognize that all is not lost.
Columbus' voyage, as tragic as it was for the reasons outlined above, has resulted in a genetic and cultural exchange that impacts almost every single place on earth.  The networks that link indigenous peoples with each other that have resulted in opportunities for the exchange of cultures, technologies, and ideas would have not been a necessity.  The thought that a person from Ghana could ever know the heart and mind of a person from New Mexico or a Swedish Saami could ever chat in New York with a person whose roots are in Japan would be remote.  That people in Ireland survived on a potato from Bolivia--that a French NGO would be delivering mosquito nets to a village in Africa to protect people from malaria or other parasitic diseases that have killed generations.  That an Andean man could be living in Arlington, VA teaching his form of spirituality to the descendents of Europeans-that opportunities for global networking that reach far before and far beyond Facebook or Twitter, began with a lost sailor-that Maori dancers could be performing at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC-amazing stuff if you put your mind to it.  Granted that perhaps Columbus created the necessity for solutions to mitigate the resulting damage, but if there is only one thing that can be salvaged from the shipwreck of the Columbus expedition, it is the potentials, current and future of a unification of Human Kind that if done right, will finally recognize the sanctity of all of Creation-plant, animal, and human and the need for more responsible stewardship and interdependence.  The combinations of all of our perspectives will prepare
us for what will lie ahead.
In the billions of years that humans have existed on Mother Earth, from the time we began, we fought each other.  It has happened on every continent, among every people, in every era.  Perhaps this is the plan of the Creator.  Perhaps there is another invasion or another epidemic looming that will require our unification, and this forced exchange is part of the Plan.  Nobody knows, really.  But whether the problems we face are self inflicted partially as a result of that first voyage or the solutions will come as a result of that first voyage, we can be sure of this:  in the year 2012, while we look back and remember, and mourn, and celebrate, we'd better look far forward and make the most out of what the world looks like now and be ready to take the leap.  Within the next few generations, it will have been 600 years since Columbus landed.  We owe it to our ancestors and our descendents to have made the struggle worthwhile.
[Washingon, DC - Geotrees Editor's Note:  "The Tree" is privileged to share program schedules and news for The Nightwolf Show, and to occasionally publish Mr. Jay Winter Nightwolf's commentary and analysis.  Below is his visionary closing statement from this year's "Columbus Day" special.  It has a quick summary of the impact of Columbus' voyages, then moves to a remarkable vision of great hope and promise to us all, growing out of those very voyages. 
[We invite you to read, to reflect, and to become regular listeners of his show.  You can also e-mail the man himself at the included e-dress; sometimes he opens the phones, and invites listeners to call in.  Please feel free to listen, and to participate.
[Feel free to share and redistribute, with attribution and without alteration.]

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