On Avoiding Columbus Day
For two years in a row, I haven’t written anything on Columbus Day. Most of DC takes the day off so that federal employees can shop the shoes sales and feel the fall breeze. It tends to piss off locals who still have to work, and of course the rest of the country that moves on as usual.
But I haven’t avoided the topic for two years because I was shoe shopping: I avoided it because it depresses me.
Yes – I’m writing a musical that (as of now) includes the slow, painful death of a famine victim; and a screenplay about a woman contemplating suicide in a Communist gulag with her seven children, and Columbus’ story depresses even me.
It’s an unsolvable crime, the arrival of Columbus in the Americas. It was the start of something gruesome and of something beautiful – the beautiful, gruesome USofA that displaced and massacred the very people whose agriculture and religious affections left her land so desirable for conquest. It can’t be figured out, remembered fully, forgotten fully.
And I hate writing about unsolvable things. It makes me feel like I’m just pouring guilt onto a flat plate – asking the recipients to grapple with something they aren’t created to hold on to in the first place.
This past year I became determined to learn more about native culture. I visited the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and took a family trip out West that allowed me to visit ancient, sacred sites. I must’ve started out hoping for some sort of resolution with my country’s history, because I felt noticeably disappointed when I didn’t find it.
Have you? Will you tell me how? Explain to me how not to avoid Columbus Day.
Perhaps next year I will have something to post – if not of my own journey, then of someone else’s.