Wednesday, October 13, 2010

They keep saying "Maybe"

Yesterday was October the 12th, that means it was Columbus Day. Saturday was the 9th, which means it was Lief Erikson day. No one gets Lief Erikson day off from work, but then not many people get Columbus day off either.

But I've noticed something on a large number of websites. Every one that is running a fluff piece on Columbus, makes mention of the earlier Norse exploration of the "New World".. But they always do it with the caveat that they "Maybe" found it first. Now, I don't understand this.. since I thought the L'Anse Aux Meadows site was pretty certainly Norse, and pretty certainly built around the year 1000. Which is just shy of 500 years before Columbus "Discovered" jack diddly.

I realize that in the US, there are, how shall we say, political ramifications of this shifting history. If you've seen the TV show "The Sopranos" they show several very outraged people's reaction to the altering of teaching about Columbus. But cultural identity means nothing compared to Facts. And the Fact is, that neither Lief Erikson, The Chinese Grand Fleet, or Columbus "Discovered" the new world. But as far as we know, even if it wasn't Lief specifically.. the Vikings were the first Europeans to build a settlement here as far as the current research allows us to know.

So why do they persist in making it sound as if its just a theory?


Trey said...

I didn't see the episode of The Sopranos your referring to, but I don't know what "cultural identity" would preference Columbus over the Vikings. I suspect its just educational system intertia and the inability for most folks to hold more than a few facts in their head.

Given that, I think its defensible to leave the Vikings as a footnote, in that it was Columbus' voyage that heralded the rapid European exploration and colonization of the New World.

Lagomorph Rex said...

well, More than one of the articles in question specifically cited Italian American's as being particularly against anything related to downgrading Columbus's voyages in curriculum.

Specifically citing the protests in the 70's when Yale unveiled the so called Vinland Map.. which now they think is probably a forgery anyway. This particular event apparently included some effigy burnings or something similar.

Which while not exactly the same, is sort of what that episode of the Sopranos is about. The Characters, across the entire spectrum, from the psychiatrist, to her husband, to the Mafia guys are all shown as having negative reactions to altering Columbus from a Hero, into a Villain in the narrative of history as taught in schools, and of the choice of the community to not have a Columbus Day Parade.

I was simply trying to be more delicate about it.

I don't have a problem with it being a footnote either, I just wish they would quit saying they only "maybe" or "possibly" were first.