Christopher Columbus has become a controversial figure of late. When I was a kid, we sang about and celebrated his discovery of America. You remember: "Columbus sailed the ocean blue, fourteen-hundred-ninety-two..." Permemnently etched in my brain are teh names of his three ships -- the Nina, the Pinta and Santa Maria. I was actually surprised to see that Melissa Gorga, of Real Housewives of New Jersey fame (the show is a huge guilty pleasure of mine), remembered the ships' names, too. Columbus Day was a simple, innocent holiday back then.
Now there is a need to qualify Christopher Columbus's journey and discovery with his being a product of the times he lived in. Yes, he was motivated by money rather than simply the desire to discover. No, he didn't ever make it to the United States mainland, just to Puerto Rico (a place I wouldn't mind landing -- talk about a happy accident!). Yes, he was freaked out by the natives of the strange land he landed upon and acted according to the societal norms of the day. It's probably not in the cards for me to leave the legacy Christopher Columbus did but we all leave our mark on the world. I hope the things I said and did during my life are taken upon their own merits and not judged so harshly because of the age in which I live by my great-great-grandkids.
Regardless of anything else, I think that we can all agree -- old school and new school -- that although the mission Christopher Columbus embarked upon failed, he proved the world was round and vast...and forever changed it, making the mission ultimately a success.
The biggest personal impact I feel from Columbus is this: He said "I will" when everyone said "You can't" and then he did it anyway. Important lessons indeed and ones I draw upon daily.
Happy Columbus Day! If you are Italian-American, celebrate the pride of your culture and the bravery of one of your ancestors! If you are simply American, celebrate the groundwork for the American Spirit! If you are neither, enjoy the gorgeous day that nature gave Long Island today.