Monday, October 11, 2010
Sail away, sail away, sail away...
Today is Columbus Day here in the good ole' US of A. The day is celebrated in both North and South America because Christopher Columbus (the "American" version of Cristoforo Colombo, his name in Italian) is usually given credit for having discovered the New World in 1492. However, the Vikings were really the first to do so. Norsemen from Scandinavia arrived here in the 10th century and began settlements in the northern part of the continent in what is now Canada. Less well known is the American holiday Leif Erikson Day, celebrated (such as it is) on October 9th and commemorating the day his ship arrived in New York Harbor bringing immigrants from Norway.
The USA is primarily a country of immigrants. Except for the descendants of the indigenous people who are now referred to as American Indians (Columbus thought he had landed in the East Indies), our ancestors either came here looking for a better way of life or were brought here. Sadly, for a country founded on freedom, we didn't offer that right to everyone in the earlier years.
Again, sadly, the freedoms we cherish as individuals often conflict with the freedom of the whole. We guarantee the freedom to worship but protest when we don't like the religious practices of another. We have the right to free speech but think we can force our words or beliefs on others. Freedom of the press often means not always hearing the whole story or maybe not even the truth. We vote on our leaders as a democracy, but then don't have, as individuals, a say in the actions of those leaders. The very makeup of our country--immigrants--guarantees that our country will always be diverse and often divided. The melting pot can be a hot pot of controversy.
Sometimes I wish I could be like Columbus and Erikson and discover a New World where everyone would live in freedom, peace and harmony.
(Image used is entitled "Santa Maria." The photograph is of the bow of the ship of the statue in Columbus Circle outside Union Station in Washington, DC. Visit the Etsy shop at Raceytay or the artist's blog ibrakeforbokeh.com for more beautiful pictures and information.)
When Columbus started out he didn't know where he was going, when he got there he didn't know where he was, and when he got back he didn't know where he had been.