A Republican congressman suggested the nation celebrates Columbus Day as a means of commemorating the day a legendary explorer discovered the U.S.– except he got it all wrong, forgetting all about that guy named Leiff Erikson
We suppose Rep. Gus Bilirakis did this to be controversial while throwing red meat to his party’s base because others are celebrating — or pushing for — Indigenous Peoples Day, instead.
“Over 500 years ago, Christopher Columbus landed on this wonderful land we call the U.S.A. Celebrate #ColumbusDay!” Bilirakis proudly tweeted on Monday morning.
It appears he deleted it:
Over 500 years ago, Christopher Columbus landed on this wonderful land we call the U.S.A. Celebrate #ColumbusDay!
— Gus Bilirakis (@RepGusBilirakis) October 12, 2015
Well he sure showed us!
The Florida congressman’s statement, however, was labeled “an unfortunate distortion” by Edward Shore, a doctoral candidate in Latin American history at the University of Texas at Austin for two reasons. First, Shore points out that Columbus didn’t land in the U.S. on Oct. 12, 1492, but rather on an island in the Bahamas.
“Second, and most alarming, is the effort to suppress an informed conversation about the causes and consequences of Europe’s arrival in the Americas and their objectives, which ultimately included colonizing, ‘Christianizing,’ and enslaving local peoples,” he told MSNBC.
While Columbus didn’t touch U.S. soil on his first journey to the Americas, the explorer did chart Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, which would later become U.S. territories, on subsequent expeditions. But he never reached the continental U.S.
Leiff Erikson and his crew of Viking explorers have been regarded as the first to reach the Americas — which was already inhabited.
Erickson, an Icelandic explorer, is remembered as the first European in the Americas, nearly 500 years before Columbus’ voyage.
“Unfortunately, proponents of Columbus Day misread criticism of European colonialism as an attack on Italian American heritage,” Shore said, noting that Columbus was actually an Italian mariner born in Genoa. “Yet at stake here is the need for Americans – South, Central, North – to confront historical legacies of colonialism and violence against the original inhabitants, who are rendered invisible, still, in this congressman’s tweets about Columbus.”
When MSNBC called Rep. Bilirakis’ Washington office, they received a recorded message stating that the congressman’s office was closed in observance of Columbus Day — the dude that did not discover America.
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H/T: FON’s own Lisa Hancock-Jasie, with thanks.
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