Columbus Day & culture war

President Trump has issued the traditional proclamation recognizing Columbus Day with unambivalent praise. That seems eminently reasonable to me. Columbus Day is intended to commemorate the first link in the chain of events leading to the founding of the United States. Those of us who love the United States are inclined to celebrate the day.

Trump puts it this way in the proclamation: “The permanent arrival of Europeans to the Americas was a transformative event that undeniably and fundamentally changed the course of human history and set the stage for the development of our great Nation.” The Trumpian accent here is slight and has the added advantage of being true.

Well, of course, this cannot stand. CNN’s Holly Yan takes issue with Trump’s Columbus Day proclamation in “Trump’s praise of Columbus omits dark history.”

Every day we are inundated with our “dark history” in the media, in our public discourse and in our schools. Can’t Holly Yan wait for the beatings to resume tomorrow? No, she can’t.

Here let me insert a historical note of my own. Columbus Day has become a national holiday pursuant to the congressional joint resolution of April 30, 1934, modified by statute in 1968 (36 U.S.C. § 107), as amended. The statute requests the president to proclaim the second Monday of October each year as Columbus Day. The statute also requests the president to “invit[e] the people of the United States to observe Columbus Day, in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies that express the public sentiment befitting the anniversary of the discovery of America.”

Columbus Day is under assault by the proponents of multiculturalism. The ideology of multiculturalism conducts a permanent offensive against the United States, against its founding principles and against its survival as a country dedicated to the proposition (you know the rest). It seethes with thinly concealed hatred of the United States. It demands that those of us who believe in the goodness of our founding and the rightness of our founding principles get our minds right.

President Obama is of course a forceful advocate of multicultural ideology. In office he served as a leader in the relentless culture war waged by the left on our principles and traditions. Columbus Day seems like a trivial front on which to wage a battle in the culture war, but Obama would not let any such occasion or “opportunity” go to waste.

Obama introduced multicultural ambivalence into presidential proclamations of the holiday and Yan holds them up as an example. Obama’s 2016 Columbus Day proclamation carried this message at its heart:

As we mark this rich history, we must also acknowledge the pain and suffering reflected in the stories of Native Americans who had long resided on this land prior to the arrival of European newcomers. The past we share is marked by too many broken promises, as well as violence, deprivation, and disease. It is a history that we must recognize as we seek to build a brighter future — side by side and with cooperation and mutual respect. We have made great progress together in recent years, and we will keep striving to maintain strong nation-to-nation relationships, strengthen tribal sovereignty, and help all our communities thrive.

More than five centuries ago, one journey changed the trajectory of our world — and today we recognize the spirit that Christopher Columbus’s legacy inspired. As we reflect on the adventurers throughout history who charted new courses and sought new heights, let us remember the communities who suffered, and let us pay tribute to our heritage and embrace the multiculturalism that defines the American experience.

Obama’s 2016 proclamation expanded on the ambivalence expressed one way or another in Obama’s previous proclamations of 2015 (“Though these early travels expanded the realm of European exploration, to many they also marked a time that forever changed the world for the indigenous peoples of North America. Previously unseen disease, devastation, and violence were introduced to their lives”), 2014 (“a history shared by Native Americans, one marred with long and shameful chapters of violence, disease, and deprivation”), 2013 (“they could not have foreseen the ways in which their journey would shake contemporary understanding of the world, or the lasting mark their arrival would leave on the Native American societies they encountered”), 2012 (“As we reflect on the tragic burdens tribal communities bore in the years that followed…”), 2011 (“On this day, we also remember the tragic hardships these [indigenous] communities endured”), 2010 (“Today, we reflect on the myriad contributions tribal communities have made to our Nation and the world, and we remember the tremendous suffering they endured as this land changed”) and 2009 (“These immigrants joined many thriving indigenous communities who suffered great hardships as a result of the changes to the land they inhabited”).

Obama’s Columbus Day proclamations broke with tradition. They introduced into presidential proclamations of Columbus Day the multicultural assault on the holiday. Yan seeks to make it obligatory.

Yan has a yen. She promotes Obama’s break with tradition. She seeks to normalize Obama’s assault on the day. She implies that Obama’s introduction of multicultural doctrine into the presidential proclamation of Columbus Day is somehow obligatory, as though it were part of the statute. She yearns for the restoration of the permanent campaign against the United States to the Oval Office.


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