Monday, October 10, 2005

Happy Columbus Day from SCSU 

(Updated with photos and re-timestamped.)

Unlike many schools, we do not celebrate Columbus Day. Indeed, it's considered in poor form to even mention it. Unless, of course, you mean to protest it.

About an hour ago Scholar Jack called me and said he saw a small flyer in his office/classroom building that was advertising a rally against Columbus Day. I met Jack and a student on the mall and they showed me a flyer that had a picture of two nooses hanging off a crossbeam. Another poster read "Come see how Columbus Day should be celebrated and come to the SCSU American Indian Center parking lot at 12:00, Oct 10th and march with us to Atwood Mall where this murder [sic] will be... Executed!" The smaller poster -- which I no longer have, as we passed it on to a member of the administration for investigation -- suggested the use of pinatas and effigies. I am unsure who sponsored the event, though one of the flyers mentions the "Pagan Alliance" and has an email address. (I'm not going to give it out.) On the mall, we find a sign that says

Christopher Columbus to be strung up and beat [sic] with a stick until dead

This looks like fun, I think, so Jack and the student and I agree to wait for the festivities.

Sure enough, about 12:15 we see a group of 10-15 people, some in hoods and bandannas making them unidentifiable, pulling a wagon where a figure was tied up.

They came to the mall and, after much trouble, managed to put up a rope over a lamppost arm. They then read something, which nobody could hear as the Homecoming activities this week were going on at the time and the music drowned out the unamplified "rebel". They hang the effigy of what was to be Columbus (and if you didn't get the flyers or stand real close to the kid, you had no idea what they were doing),

and they let a kid beat the pinata with a stick multiple times. The mother is standing to the side, urging her child to swing again, harder. The kid tires, and the older sister takes over. Eventually some kind of candy comes out. Cheering from the gaggle, a mild scramble for whatever fell out -- which didn't seem like much more than hard candies and lots of paper -- and they are done within fifteen minutes.

I'd like to have a word with that mom about parenting. Ma'am, the object of childrearing is to teach your children to react to things they find objectionable by some means short of swinging a stick. Your kids had a great time today, and I'm pleased you're able to get them to school to join you (I assume they're off for the holiday?) but I do hope you haven't just passed a message to them that violence is OK. If you think that's over the top, I bet you can't wait for public executions to be shown on Court TV. Pass the popcorn.

The protest to me looked like a feel-good exercise for the people who organized it. It had almost no attendance (besides me, there were three other people taking pictures either for a photo-j class or the UTVS camerapeople), the only way to know what was happening was to line up around the poster, which was difficult to do while kids are swinging sticks. It was puerile, futile, and ineffective. But at least you got to celebrate Columbus Day. The kids in classrooms did not.