Eric Douglas: Ditch Columbus for Election Day

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Eric Douglas sig

I saw a story recently that a town in Ohio chose to eliminate Columbus Day. In exchange they made Election Day a holiday.

That seems like a perfectly reasonable idea to me.

I can already hear some people groaning that getting rid of Columbus Day is being “politically correct” or something similar. But have you ever asked yourself why we celebrate Columbus in the first place?

Columbus made four voyages across the Atlantic with a goal of finding a way to connect Europe to Asia. He failed.

On his first voyage on the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria that we all know from elementary school? Yeah, he never touched, or saw, North America. He did make it to the Caribbean and sailed around there for a while, including the Bahamas and Hispaniola. Then he sailed for home.

On his second trip to the Americas? Yeah, back to the islands, and then he returned to Spain with 500 slaves, which Queen Isabella of Spain refused to accept.

His third and fourth trips? He did make it to South America. After his third trip, he was arrested and sent home in chains for mismanagement and brutality at a colony he set up on Hispaniola (present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic). His fourth trip ended in failure and he died penniless in Spain in 1506.

That doesn’t seem like much of a role model to me. And, yes, he effectively wiped out the Taino people with disease, slavery and brutality. His legacy isn’t one of exploration and there is nothing there to be celebrated. He didn’t “discover” anything. People were already living here.

If we want to celebrate the first European explorer to visit North America (I’m not sure why we would, but if so), we should celebrate Leif Eriksson, who made it to present-day Canada nearly 500 years before.

On the other hand, Election Day is foundational to our democracy and our system of government. But, we have dismally low turnout for elections. Anything we can do to get people to turn out and participate, to take ownership of their nation makes sense to me.

You might be saying, “But we only have an election every two years. We are losing a holiday!”

Not so, if you look at it from a local and state government perspective. We have an election every fiscal year.

The May Primary Election is in one fiscal year and the General Election is in the next. For example, the 2020 Primaries will be in the 2019-2020 fiscal year and the General Election will be in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

We might miss out on a fall holiday, but we gain one in the spring the next year. It works out. Unless you are a government employee, do you even get Columbus Day off, anyway?

Just some food for thought.

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit www.booksbyeric.com or contact him at Eric@booksbyeric.com

Funerals for Friday, May 29, 2020

Johnson, Richard - 2 p.m., Estel Shultz Cemetery, South Charleston.

Kennedy Jr., Dennis - 2 p.m., Clover Cemetery, near Spencer.

Midkiff, Harold - 3 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, Alum Creek.

Myers, Joy - 11 a.m., Cunningham Memorial Park, St. Albans.

Pack, Rosalee - 1 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.

Peters, Carolynne - 6 p.m., Snodgrass Funeral Home, South Charleston.

Turley, Linda - 1 p.m., Tyler Mountain Funeral Home, Cross Lanes.

Williams, Cleo - 1 p.m., Holly River Baptist Church Cemetery, Diana.

Young III, Lawrence - 1 p.m., O'Dell Funeral Home, Montgomery.