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Monday, October 13, 2014

Whitewash

 

Here's what I don't get: Pluto.

More specifically, I don't get the argument over what to call it.

I’ve seen people nearly come to blows over Pluto.

And I just don’t get it.

Planet, minor planet, Kuiper Belt object, whatever.

I mean, if you're not an astronomer – that is: a vitamin D deficient long-hair who spends all night staring at a computer monitor filled with mathematical gibberish instead of watching reality TV like normal people – why do you care?

No, really, why do you care?

Go outside, look up. Where’s Pluto? You have no goddamned idea, do you?

It’s not something you need to deal with on a daily basis. Hell, it's not even in the bible, is it?

And let’s be honest, shall we? The closest most Americans get to astronomy is watching Dancing With The Stars and giggling over the pronunciation of Uranus.

So, I’ll ask again: why does anybody care what the hell science calls the damned rock?

Hell, Clyde Tombaugh could have just made the whole thing up...

 

What?

 

Clyde. Clyde Tombaugh. American astronomer. The guy who “discovered” Pluto back in 1930. You know, Clyde Tombaugh. I mean, you're all over the whole Pluto thing, right? Probably have Clyde's swimsuit poster on your bedroom wall. Oh, sure, Clyde. Clyde Tombaugh. Big fan. Saw the movie with Brad Pitt as the Tomster, that’s the one with the sparkly vampire zombie Nazis, right?

Right.

Tombaugh could have made it up. Sure he could have.  And how would you know? Pluto, it’s just a spot on a photographic plate. I'm mean, who verified this? Other astronomers? Oh, and we believe them, do we? We won't take science's word for for evolution, climate change, Bigfoot, oh hell no – but Pluto? Science, totally real, Dude, totally.

A couple years back the little world, which Americans can’t see and never think about, was demoted from planet to not-planet.

And we lost our shit over it.

What? They demoted Pluto? Oh, now it’s on!

It’s a wonder astronomers weren’t dragged from the universities and burned alive.

Politicians and pundits weighed in with ponderous gravity. Congress milled about in various orbits of outrage and actually considered a bill mandating the little frozen ice ball be declared a Full Planet in law if not in fact. Ironic, I guess, that we can’t agree people are equal, but, man, we’re all about civil rights for planets, Goddamnit – I mean, think about it, what if Pluto turns out to be black? Or gay? Would you still want it to marry your sister? I mean, come on, folks, think it through, it’s not rocket science … ur, okay, maybe it is, but I think I’ve made my point here.

The web was aflame with pitched battles. People were all, "Oh I've always been a huge Pluto fan! Favorite planet ever, man, love how they named it after the Disney character, yo!"

And it's still going on.

Somebody asked me about it just the other day: say, Jim, where do you come down on this whole Pluto demotion issue? I sure hope you're not one of them "minor world" guys.

Hey now, I replied, some of my best friends are dwarf planets…

Here in the nation of the perpetually outraged and offended, Pluto’s status is just another thing to be outraged and offended about. What? What's that? They've demoted Pluto? Why those dirty SONS OF BITCHES! In my day we had nine planets! Nine! But now? Everything is going to shit. Thanks, Obama!

As if we're all somehow diminished as human beings, as Americans, if Pluto isn't a planet.

Eight? Eight planets? Just eight planets? But, but, but, what if other solar systems have MORE THAN US? WHAT THEN? WE CAN'T HAVE LESS PLANETS THAN ALPHA CENTAURI FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, WE'LL BE THE LAUGHING STOCK OF THE UNIVERSE! ALIENS WILL THINK WE’VE GOT LITTLE DICKS! WE'VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING!

Honestly, what's next? We gonna put some big chrome stacks on Jupiter and hang a giant pair of Truck Nutz on Neptune?

 

You’re wondering where I’m going with this, aren’t you?

 

Columbus Day.

That’s where I’m going. Columbus Day.

Pluto. Columbus Day. How could you not see that coming?

Honestly, it’s like you people don’t know me at all.

Today is Columbus Day in America.

It’s a bullshit minor holiday that’s mostly just an excuse for federal employees to get a paid day off.

Because, you know, that’s what we need, another reason for Congress to take a long weekend. Not like there’s a big backlog of legislation or anything, right?

I mean, what exactly are the ancient traditions associated with this holiday?

Look, I’m not unpatriotic, I know my American history, sure, I know the part about going to Wal-Mart for “Columbus Day Blow Out Deals.” I’m not a total Philistine. But I’m a little hazy on the religious aspects. Do we gather together at Grandma’s house, she’ll make her famous deep fried ham stuffed with firecrackers and syphilis, the kids will carve a Plymouth Rock from gingerbread while Uncle Phil gets plastered and manages to light his balls on fire again from shooting bottle-rockets out of his ass in the backyard, we’ll watch the big Macy’s Columbus Day parade in new york where men dressed as Conquistadors wade ashore from floats that look like Spanish galleons in search of gold and slaves under the baleful copper gaze of Lady Liberty, then we’ll all meet down at the church for the traditional Columbus Day Prayer Of Peace and Togetherness? Are there little construction paper war bonnets? Fireworks? Do we get to nail somebody to a cross? Is there a gift exchange? Tell me there’s at least going to be a giant male rabbit who shits foil covered chocolate eggs. Something.

But, of course, there’s none of that.

So far as I can tell, the primary Columbus Day tradition involves shouting variations of the phrase:  “Oh what the fuck? Why is the post office closed?

Folks, Columbus Day is the Pluto of American holidays.

Most Americans have no idea where this stupid “holiday” came from and most of the time they couldn’t care less.  Columbus, he’s the guy who discovered America, right? He was like the first American … or was that George Jefferson? I forget, anyway, off to Wal-Mart, gotta make a beer run before Dancin’ Wit Da Starz comes on.

I mean, come on.

Columbus day? Really?

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.
He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.
A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.
Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.
Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.
Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.
October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!
"Indians!  Indians!"  Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.
But "India" the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.
The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.
Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he'd been told.
He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.
The first American?  No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.

Except it turns out almost all of that is, literally, whitewashed bullshit.

Columbus was an asshole, even his friends thought so – what few friends he had.  He routinely screwed his own crew out of money that he’d promised them and gloated about it, rubbing their faces in it. When his men threatened to mutiny (which happened repeatedly because Columbus was a shitty leader), he handed out pre-pubescent native girls as compensation, after enslaving their parents. He justified genocide by reasoning that so long as he didn’t let anybody convert the natives, he wasn’t killing Christians so God had to be good with it.  They used to say you could navigate between Europe and the New World without a compass, all you had to do was follow the trail of dead Indians floating behind Columbus’ ships.  He ruled Hispaniola as a brutal tyrant, see, Columbus wasn’t exactly keen on democracy and liberty – though he was a big fan of gold. 

Christopher Columbus didn’t discover the United States. He wasn’t even close to the first European to reach the shores of the New World. And he certainly wasn’t an American, he was an Italian sailing under a Spanish flag. He never set foot on what is nowadays American soil.  He made his voyages nearly 300 years before the United States even existed.

Most Americans couldn’t tell you much of anything about Christopher Columbus beyond the silly fairytale of that child’s nursery rhyme  – let alone anything about the actual man who called himself Cristóbal Colón.

What? What’s that you say? Oh, c’mon now, Jim? What are you, some kind of America hater? Why Christopher Columbus was a genuine American hero. You’re just repeating liberal lies. Besides, who really knows what happened back then?

Yeah, except for the part where Columbus himself documented his atrocities in his own logs and diaries in full detail – and it’s not me who whitewashed history.

In fact, Columbus Day as a federal holiday is a relatively recent invention created whole cloth by people who are largely ignorant of and tone-deaf to actual American history.

But just like Pluto, bring up demoting Columbus’ place in the Pantheon of American Fairytales and watch the spittle start to fly – as if we, as Americans, will somehow be diminished if we don’t have a largely ignored holiday named after a genocidal tyrant who died two and half centuries before our country was even founded.

And you want to know what the really funny part is?

Do you?

Because I’ll tell you.  See, the people most adamant about the sanctity of Columbus Day? Yeah, those Americans? They’re the very same people, the very same people almost name for name, who want English declared the official language of the United States and who demand that the southern border be secured with a wall a hundred feet high specifically to keep out Christopher Columbus’ Spanish speaking descendants.

Now, how’s that for irony?

Listen, you know what will happen to America if Pluto is allowed to remain a minor planet?

Nothing.

Likewise, you know what will happen to our nation if we dump Columbus Day?

Nothing.

Listen to me, you want a day off in October?

Then how about a holiday that includes us all?

How about a day that celebrates our great accomplishments as a nation? How about history and events we don’t have to whitewash? 

How about a holiday where we Americans celebrate our great accomplishments, our moments of exploration and discovery?

We can talk about the first peoples to arrive here chasing wooly mammoths 25,000 years ago. We can celebrate the native cultures that once dominated this continent – the ones we name our rivers and states and sports teams after. We can talk about the Viking longships that explored our shores long before Columbus – and hell, we can even talk about The Great Navigator himself, if we want. Then let us celebrate and remember those moments in time where we Americans, all of us, came together in wonder and awe. Let us remember our voyages of discovery and exploration and hope. From the Nome Serum Run to the California Gold Rush, from Kitty Hawk to the footprints in Mare Tranquilities, Columbia and Challenger and Apollo One, to Voyager and Curiosity and beyond.

We’ll open the museums and the history books and teach our children what it is to be an American - and maybe one day we will again became a nation and a people who look outward instead of staring into our own festering bellybuttons.

Let’s call it Clyde Tombaugh Day.

91 comments:

  1. We call it Discoverer's Day out here in Hawai'i. That takes into account all the Polynesians and Micronesians and Melanesians who sailed up here from their home islands, and incidentally poor old Captain James Cook, who got into a stupid fight over on the Big Island and got accidentally dead.

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    1. "Got accidentally dead." Laughed myself silly - thanks for that!

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    2. Didn't Cook get to be the main dish at a BBQ?

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    3. Ain't no pig quite like "long pig".

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  2. Clyde Tombaugh had a real close friend named Percival Lowell, PLuto was named to honor him.

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    1. Clyde didn't want to call it C'Thulu? Lovecraft wrote about it in 1928, Pluto was discovered in 1930. I guess it would've been too obscure a reference.

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  3. I think we should make election day a national holiday... and, in fact, make voting mandatory for everyone over 18.

    and dump Columbus' skeevy ass from our holidays.

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    1. I like this idea Joshua James! Far better idea than Columbus Day for sure. Plus, most people don't actually get the day as a holiday, but election day should be a mandatory national day of voting with exceptions for the people who keep the country running - health care workers, police and fire departments, utility workers etc. But everyone eligible to vote MUST vote one way or another. This will take a lot of education for many people however. Could take a number of elections before everyone gets out and votes.

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    2. I concur. Change the date to November fourth & call it Civic Duty Day.

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    3. This is an excellent idea, however, it will never happen because it makes too much sense. Columbus shouldn't have a holiday and needs his ass kicked from our history books as well, or at the very least, teach the asshole that he was.

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    4. Spot on, Joshua James!

      Especially since, thanks to all those newly-enacted, "patriotic" voting restrictions, a lot of non-white people will have to stand in line for a full day just to cast their votes.

      "Whitewash" indeed ...

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    5. More people would vote, for sure, and instead of making it mandatory, you would have to decline in writing or no tax return for you.

      Bigtoe

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  4. OT1H, can we please stop equating federal employees with Congress? There are a lot more of us than there are of them, and most of us actually try to do our jobs well. (Speaking, here, for the National Weather Service, the National Institutes of Health, the Park Service, and a shitload of other people who just Go To The Damn Job everyday and do it, and if we didn't, man, people would NOTICE.)

    OTOH, yeah, no, most of us don't give a @#$% about Columbus Day, either. I, myself, am a contractor (don't get me started), and the *old* money launderer, er, I mean *contractor*, that I used to work for made Columbus Day a "floating holiday" which meant that if we would rather work that day and then take the day off on the Friday after Thanksgiving, well, that was fine. The current *cough* contractor -- no, really, don't *even* get me started -- doesn't do that, so lo, I am home today. Whatever.

    Personally, I would rather have a holiday in April. It's a long, dry spell every year between MLK Day and Memorial Day. We could use a break. I'm just sayin'.

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    1. Thank you, Vicki. As another federal contractor (who worked a full day on Monday), I too get sick of being the object of so much contempt.

      My colleagues are smart, dedicated, public servants...almost all of whom could make significantly more money in the private sector. We routinely put in unpaid time, including nights, weekends, and holidays because we believe in what we are doing. If we were in charge of Congress, we wouldn't be sitting around bloviating and obstructing critically important legislation. We would be doing what was necessary to get the job done and protect/serve the American people.

      Otherwise, Jim is right on. As usual.

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  5. Linkmeister's comment (Discoverer's Day or perhaps slightly renamed Discovery Day) kind of rings a bell with me though some kind of recognition of the earlier discoverers would be appropriate as well.
    .
    I'm personally not stuck on any special religious significance to the holiday, but it has been a tradition for at least a few years.

    Sam Hobbs (I post as "Anonymous" because I hate establishing an identity with any or all of those places).

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  6. If you get right down to it, few of our national holidays have much meaning any more--that is, beyond H-U-G-E retail opportunities. And it all makes no difference to Pluto, either--it'll continue to whirl around the sun regardless of whether or not we regard it as a planet. But I agree, it would be wonderful if we could again become a people who look outward rather than inward.

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  7. Love this essay Jim! It is time to "dump Columbus' skeevy ass from our holidays".

    The Seattle City Council voted to make this Indigenous Peoples Day which has upset the Italians in the area. After all, Italy needs it own American holiday, eh? What about all those other countries that people left to come to America? If the Italians need an Italian holiday, maybe they should go back to Italy - j/k of course.

    Anyway, Columbus Day was not jettisoned, it must now share the day with the Indigenous People, you know the ones who lived here first?

    You are also correct that we can always find something to get upset over, even when it is something that is not true! Politics sure does prove this out.

    Enjoy Indigenous Peoples' Day everyone!

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  8. And, I will add that though I don't really care a lot what we call it, the story of the discovery and gravitational interactions between Neptune, Uranus and Pluto and the various mathematical manipulations to confirm the discovery really are pretty fascinating. (Of course, as a physics major from long ago, that probably means my judgment on such matters is biased.)

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  9. My goodness. I think I just had a Seinfeld flashback. At least it feels that way.

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  10. Well that's it..up is down, pluto is a dog and I'm upset over everything because the media tells me to be! You're just an America hater, admit it...come on...I know you served your country and all that but Benghazi!!!! Voter fraud! Kenyan usurper! The sky is falling and I'm skeard!!!
    Oh well, off to reality TEEVEE.

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  11. That, Joshua, is an excellent notion! Would help alleviate some of the pressure that working peeps face which led to early voting and weekend voting resulting in the current Republican hysteria over ohmygodvoterfraud! Must eliminate all that! --TJinLA

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  12. "So far as I can tell, the primary Columbus Day tradition involves shouting variations of the phrase: “Oh what the fuck? Why is the post office closed?”

    Jim, you owe me a new keyboard. ;-) --TJinLA

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    1. I didn't use that exact phrase, but I did look for my mail...then said, Oh.....this is Columbus Day.

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    2. Who the fuck cares about the mail anymore? It's "Why is the BANK closed, girldernit?"

      Bruce

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    3. One of the local banks in Ann Arbor tweeted that they would be open today. They don't "celebrate" Columbus Day, because Columbus is in Ohio and home to Ohio State. University rival gold.

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    4. I flew into town yesterday and went directly to the PO at the mall with a bunch of mail to send out. Jim must have been standing behind me at the time. I consoled myself by hitting a few of the sales though...

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  13. I'm a "You can have Pluto when you pry it from my cold dead solar system" kind of guy. Why? Because I'm a curmudgeonly contrarian and like to pick sides in silly debates over matters that don't matter. I'm even practicing my "Get off my lawn!" bellow. I was a teenager when Charon was discovered, and suddenly astronomy was vaguely interesting for a short time. I remember when Mariner when to Mercury and some folks thought that we might finally find the planet Vulcan. So if we're at a party and someone wants to throw down on the planet worthiness of Pluto (but not Ceres or Eris, or the other wanna-bes, because that would just be silly), then I'm your guy. Just get me a drink first, cause this is going to get academic.

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  14. I read somewhere that Columbus didn't think the world was round; he thought it was shaped like a breast, with the Garden of Eden located at the nipple. Kinda makes ya think, dunnit? Guess they couldn't fit that into the poem. Also, please consider that aliens may think Earthers have tiny boobies instead of or in addition to tiny dicks. That would also be disgraceful.

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    1. Most people back then knew the world was spherical because the sphericity of the earth was taught in the schools, including the big European universities. Only real fringy types believed it was flat or (teehee) booby shaped.

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  15. I had to laugh at the comment that it was "literally whitewashed bullshit". I supposed you would first have to find a bull...
    Seriously though, as a state employee (I'll let you guess which state), we actually get confederate memorial day as a holiday!

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  16. I say he shoulda named it Goofy.

    Also too, The whole deal of moving every holiday to Monday just so nobody gets screwed out of a holiday they might not have been scheduled to work anyway has always bugged me, even though I spent the first half of my life as an hourly wage type. Not a very Lefty sentiment, but there you are...

    Also three, um..."Mare Tranquillitatis".

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  17. Columbus certainly wasn't the first to discover America but he was the last. He, at least, popularized the idea enough in Europe, it went mainstream. Or more likely, the gold he "found" did.

    And I'm fine with Pluto being a Dwarf Planet. Its orbit always bothered me for being a planet... all caterwumpus to the plane of the ecliptic and edging into Neptune's orbit. That just weren't right.

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    1. You should see some of the exoplanetary ones then! There's a whole bunch of worlds round other stars with extremely eccentric orbits - in both metaphorical and astronomical senses of the word! One caleld HD HD 80606b is in a cometary that rings it from 125 million kilometers to just 4 million kilometers of its sun. That's got quadruple Jupiter's mass too so calling it a "dwarf" seems a bit odd. (Source : "Weather sizzles on a planet that kisses its star",Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy blog, January 28, 2009 11:00 am Discover blogs.) Another system (HD 45364.) has a supersized analogue of two exoplanets in orbits very closely resembling Neptune and Pluto's albeit closer in - but similarly tilted and eccentric and overlapping. (Source : "Extrasolar Neptune-Pluto Analogue Discovered" by Ken Croswell, February 18th 2009.)"Then there's at least one (WASP-17) discovered in 2009 (yes again!) that orbits backwards or retrograde probably following a collision with another planet or maybe interference from a another star. (Source : "Newfound Planet Orbits Backward" by Jeanna Bryner and Robert Roy Britt for Space dot com, August 12, 2009 09:56am ET.) So exoplanets can have all sorts of strange orbits and even be rogue planets wandering without stars as well.

      Yeah, alien worlds are .. alien. Its our well regulated and very circular planetary orbits in our solar system that seem to be the exception

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  18. The original objection to giving Columbus money for the voyage was that he thought the earth was much smaller then it is. Yes he was wrong and they were correct, but it is very likely spanish spies discovered that the Portuguese had been going to South America for years. Regardless Columbus was an amazing asshole and I pray that he is roasting in hell.
    Enjoy Indigenous Peoples' Day everyone!

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  19. Said the shut-in on the day after Flag Day: "Is it here yet?"
    But, "Only 364 more days!"

    http://www.thepaincomics.com/Flag%20Boy,%20the%20day%20after.jpg

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  20. Apparently we have Washington Irving to thank for this

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  21. It's a shame they don't teach US history any more. If they did, I'm sure everyone would already know all this. The education system *cough* in this country leaves a lot to be desired. Also, isn't passing a constitution class mandatory to graduate high school? Obviously most people forget everything immediately after passing the test or we wouldn't be in such sorry shape. Wouldn't it be nice if it had to be re-passed every 5 years just like keeping a driver's license? Mandatory testing and voting.

    BTW I'm mean, you're all over - I think it should say, "I mean, you're all over..."

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  22. Native Americans Day is a nice alternative. Columbus was a nothing as an explorer. But, he had a way with royalty.

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    1. Despite the folks formerly known as Indians trying to grab that Native American title off for themselves, isn't everyone born here a Native American?

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    2. anon-
      given that "folks formerly known as Indians" were named Indians by others than themselves and most likely originally cuz those others had no frickin clue where they were and who the indigenous peoples might be,
      I'd say it's a silly argument though it will continue to be debated for a long time as said here :

      http://www.wisegeek.org/why-are-native-americans-called-indians.htm

      I say all born here are native Americans but not all are Native Americans.

      It may seem a game of semantics, or, heaven forbid, we-all-came-from-elsewhere-even-if-your-grandma-showed-up-here-25000-years-before-mine-did-why-can't-we-all-be-Natives? but denying the history of those who came before is sorta a large part of the how we end up with doofus holidays to jerks like CC in the first place, ennit?
      Alaska Pi

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  23. Uranus…ha hha hhaa ha!!
    (Beavis & Butthead laugh!!)

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  24. This here state (California) employee gets the holiday as well. A few years back, there was talk of eliminating it along with Cesar Chavez Day (not replacing the former with the latter, but dropping them both). This resulted in a very "strange bedfellows" opposition coalition, of folks who wanted to keep one of the two.

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  25. "Ironic, I guess, that we can’t agree people are equal, but, man, we’re all about civil rights for planets, Goddamnit – I mean, think about it, what if Pluto turns out to be black? Or gay? Would you still want it to marry your sister?"

    It is going to take a long time to clean all the spewed iced tea off my monitor and keyboard. *chuckles*

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  26. I laughed. I cried. I shit my pants. Uranus. hehehe

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    1. OK, so here's a weird thing: when I was in junior high, NOBODY got the giggles at "Uranus". (And yes, it was pronounced with the long "A" at the time, as opposed to the modern "YOUR-uh-nus". We'd just never heard the term "anus" before. Thanks, Internet!)

      (Though someone in my junior high did discover 'sphincter'...)

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    2. There's a planet named "Sphincter"?

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    3. I really need to remember not to read the comments at work!

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    4. @SJD: Give a 13-year-old a powerful enough telescope, and there probably will be.

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    5. Uranus really should be called 'Ouranos' - the only planet named after a Greek god rather than its Roman equivalent (Venus = Aphrodite, Mars= Ares, Neptune = Poseidon etc ..) and they had to go romanise the spelling. Sigh.

      Or if you go by discoverers wishes it'd be 'Georgium Siderus' ("George's Star") after a certain mad king George III of England.. I don't imagine that'd go down too well with Americans somehow. (Although the prudes would enjoy losing that asinine ole joke.)

      Or maybe call it '34 Tauri' if you count the first one to see it but who didn't know what it was. (Flamsteed.) Uranus, incidentally, was first charted as star then considered a comet when William Herschel first saw it and only then known as a planet when he realised what he was really observing. (Galileo spied Neptune alongside Jove's moons *much* earlier on too and, again, didn't realise what it was.)

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  27. Here in south Florida, Columbus Day is an excuse for folks to sail their boats out into Biscayne Bay. Raft up with a few thousand of their closest friends. Peal their clothes off, get drunk as skunks, and PARTY. It is known as the Columbus Day Regatta.

    auerbob

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  28. Wait a minute. Pluto is one of those Disney Dogs.....
    The one that does not talk.....

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  29. Ah, you've been reading Howard Zinn's "A Peoples History of the United States." eh ?

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  30. I live in a town where the city employees use to get a day off for Robert E. Lee's birthday.

    The city council finally decided that the day after Thanksgiving sounded like a lot better deal.

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  31. You gave me the best belly laugh today: "A couple years back the little world, which Americans can’t see and never think about, was demoted from planet to not-planet.

    And we lost our shit over it.

    What? They demoted Pluto? Oh, now it’s on!

    It’s a wonder astronomers weren’t dragged from the universities and burned alive."

    Heck, the issue was used for humor in a Big Bang Theory episode too.
    But on to Columbus. If you haven't read, then I'd highly recommend 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.
    It blew my mind. All the culture and civilization that was lost just astonished (and saddened) me. And much of what is discussed in that book has been known for a LONG time and yet, you won't find it in text books.

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  32. We've lost mortgages. We've lost jobs. We've lost wealth. We've lost PLANETS! Fuck, this is a bugger of a recession!

    Bruce

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  33. One of my best friends (who is both Native American and a US Merchant Marine deck officer) refers to this national holiday as "Bad Navigation Day".

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  34. The only Native Americans on this continent were of European descent and born on or after 1776. There were many Nations of people here for thousands of years before 1492. The writers of history at the time of extermination did not think it necessary to record all names unless there was gold and wealth to plunder. At least this limits the amount of names sports teams get to dishonor.

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  35. Maybe we could replace Columbus Day with a holiday for Halloween. Most of us enjoy that a lot more, if you aren't going to a party, you are staying up with your kids and dealing with a sugar overdose

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  36. To explain the who Pluto demotion thing to the uninitiated, the history of Pluto's planethood is much like Ceres'; some astronomer saw a large bright object about where a planet should be, and then it was discovered that there were a lot more bright objects like it along similar orbits. Ceres got demoted to asteroid not long after the discoveries of Pallas, Vesta, and Juno, which are all in the region of our solar system called the Asteroid Belt (you may have heard of it), located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

    Pluto has a very odd orbit for a planet; until 1999, it was inside Neptune's orbit. However, with the discoveries of Eris, Makemake, Haumea, and other similar Trans-Neptunian Objects that share similar objects, the question for astronomers (who are the people most affected by astronomical terminology; they are scientists, after all) was whether we had eight planets, or potentially hundreds. Since Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are all much more similar to each other than they are to Pluto and the other TNOs, the decision was made to break up "planet" into "planet" and "dwarf planet"; Ceres and the TNOs would fall under this new category in order to avoid confusion among People Who Are Actually Affected By Such Things.

    Also, thanks for the Vikings reference, Chief. If it hadn't been for that damn ice age...

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  37. I'm all for the Oatmeal's suggestion of Bartolomé Day instead.

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  38. I'm good with Pluto being restored, even though it pissed Ceres off something fierce. I'm surprised that you didn't mention That Black Man who championed demoting Pluto -- like The Black Man In the White House, That Planetarium Black Guy is some of terrorist. Because. Uh. Well. Uh. Bengazi! Nazis! Kale!

    Ahem...

    Dr. Phil

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    1. I'm sure that the "DeGrasse" part in his name is some sort of drug reference that he needs to be locked up for life for. I mean, who does he think he is? What could one of the world's leading minds in astrophysics possibly know about astronomy? If geocentricism was good enough for Ptolemy, then it's good enough for the rest of us. Teach the CONTROVERSY!!!!!!!!!!!111!!!1!!!111!

      On that note, his peace-loving, anti-nuke hippie mentor Carl Sagan's name sounds suspicious. Sagan -> Satan. Coincidence? I think NOT!

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    2. You forgot "Arugula!! "

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  39. "I cried" should be above "you are my god" for this one!

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  40. How about forgetting a holiday in October. Lets may Election Day in November a federal holiday. Oh yeah, never mind. Too many people don't want as many people voting now. And as for Columbus, we never hear about those blankets infected with Small Pox.

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  41. expanding on Jim's suggestion, make it "E Pluribus Unum" Day

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  42. I just don't understand why we chose Columbus over Vespucci...really... no sense at all.

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  43. I am all for Tombaugh Day, or perhaps Lowell Day. Still, I think you would see much opposition to the abolition of Columbus Day from the Knights of Columbus, a large and powerful Roman Catholic organization, and perhaps other Italian-Americans as well. It was a big deal, back when, for the despised Italian-Americans (they're dark! they're Papists!) to get a national holiday named for one of their own, and perhaps it still is.

    Identity politics is such a mess. Who can blame Italian-Americans for wanting some respect, after all? But at the expense of the first peoples? Why couldn't they have picked some other hero to represent them? Heck, why not Garibaldi Day? He was the Italian liberator. And it's not like the wingers are real happy with Italian-Americans or Roman Catholics, either.

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    1. I vote for Michaelangelo Day -- now I'm betting he was no saint to work for either (I told you burnt umber not amber, do it over) but his work has inspired us for ages as well as the fact he was very smart. Marlene

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  44. Personally, I think they get pissed because it makes "Interplanet Janet" from Schoolhouse Rock *wrong*

    So they've got this song running through their heads, they've known it their whole lives and the thing is WRONG NOW and they CAN'T STAND IT OMGELEVENTY!!!

    ...just my theory.

    Bea

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    1. Pluto or no Pluto, Interplanet Janet is still awesome.

      (She's a Galaxy Girl.)

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  45. Jim, Colorado AP high school students have recently left school to speak out against this very thing – the idea that American History has to be whitewashed to include only Johnny Appleseed, George Washington's cherry tree, and Godly white people, instead of the truth.

    What is it with these pearl clutchers who just cannot deal with reality? Who prefer myth to what actually happened? Or are these the same people whose Christian faith is so weak that the mere mention of another religion causes the vapors? Is their patriotism so feeble that the inclusion of other peoples and their history frightens them to their very cores?

    I thought Conservatives were tough, strong people who tame the land, climb mountains, blah blah blah. Nope, nothing but a bunch of tough talking pussies. Kind of like Columbus.

    Peace
    Chris in South Jersey

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    1. Johnny Appleseed was no Johnny Appleseed! If you get the chance, read "The Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollan. The six word summation: Johnny planted trees for hard cider.

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    2. And this is bad because...?

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    3. Seriously...John Chapman was a definite eccentric by all accounts, and a follower of an even more eccentric Christian sect, but did no harm to anyone so far as is known, and spread a useful fruit throughout his wanderings. By me he was, to use a term I first heard on Babylon 5, a blessed lunatic.

      Does it really matter so much what the apples he planted were used for? Do you yourself like a glass of cider, or beer, or any other "adult beverage"? If not, I'm fine with that...but if so, what's your problem? (Other than the desire to gleefully piss on a very minor American icon.)

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    4. Don,

      OK, I’ll play. I will “gleefully piss” on ANY American icon (major or minor) if it is warranted. A great visionary such as Thomas Jefferson should be called out for fathering children with slaves. MLK Jr. cheated on his wife, and Malcolm X sported a violent past. So what? Should we ignore these things just to perpetuate silly stories, myths, and fables (that’s what Aesop is for).

      And why is it a good idea to inculcate kids with this garbage while ignoring the actual history of our world? What good does that do? Sure, myths and stories are fun, but they have no real impact on our daily lives, and serve only to reinforce white, male dominance.

      No one need learn about Johnny Appleseed, who he was, or why he planted trees. People do need to know why The South is so messed up, why the Mexican border is so contentious, and why there always seems to be so much violence in the Middle East.

      Peace
      Chris in South Jersey

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    5. There's not a thing wrong with planting apples for alcoholic purposes in my world view, though of course if it's an issue with yours, don't plant apples for that purpose.

      Apples themselves are a fascinating botanical specimen. Middle eastern in origin, don't grow true to seed, wild and crazy genetic diversity. A really fun romp through biological science.

      Johnny Appleseed is whitewashed, which made the insistence of those who want a whitewashed history funny and ironic. The section on apples and Johnny Appleseed in the book I recommended has lots of interesting commentary on our culture's ability to sanitize and re-imagine historical figures to fit what we want instead of what is true.

      A bit of myth busting followed up by pointing people to a good reference that gives a fuller, more nuanced biography of an interesting historical figure is not "pissing on" anything or anyone. It's a supplying of facts and a reference to back the facts up.

      Also, good book.

      ~A

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  46. ......
    The aliens know about our dicks?

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    1. Byproduct of all the probing...

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  47. Here in Minneapolis, it's now called "Indigenous People's Day". My boss is one of those outraged, despite not having a damned clue about who he is purported to be or how heroic his supposed deeds weren't. It's un'murican he tells ya! He also thinks English and Christianity should be official... fucking simpleton.

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  48. For nearly 2 decades, in the mid-19th century, a planet named Vulcan could be found in astronomy textbooks and in illustrations and maps of our solar system. It was taken quite seriously by most of the scientific community because its "discoverer", the French mathematician, Urbain Le Verrier, had previously predicted and then discovered the planet Neptune using similar methods.

    I was sad to see "Pluto" go but I'm really bummed that we lost "Vulcan" all those years ago. How cool would that have been.

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  49. Jefferson County schools has reason to be upset...rewriting history is a big deal...the wingers on the school board were elected by a small minority while the majority slept or were doing other things...lesson one...elections have meaning..."To the victors...go the spoils" one of which it to rewrite history...and to control the narrative...CWO, I know you know more about this than I do...but the parents and kids I talk to don't want the revisionist histories...they want the truth, they want the facts...and the wingers want just the opposite...I have given up on holidays long ago...Time and money are always in short supply...Wasn't there a new moon discovered lately that is larger than Pluto...??? As a long time affectionado of SPACE, TIME, and Sagan...I don't care if pluto is or is not a planet...I just don't want to vacation there...

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  50. How about a November holiday...like VOTING DAY????

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  51. Nicely argued. Of course, in my country it's Thanksgiving. So I always wondered why you wanted a holiday on our day off, without calling it Thanksgiving. (yes, I know, your harvest comes later than ours.)

    Without doubt, the idea about having a day off to vote is a much better idea for a holiday. You want everyone to vote, right?

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  52. But, but, think of the expense of changing all of the school books to reflect reality?

    Excellent as ever.

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  53. Whoops, sorry, didn't intend to publish that as a Reply.

    But, thanks for the reference to the book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. I'll put it on my list.

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  54. "Go outside, look up. Where’s Pluto? You have no goddamned idea, do you?"

    Actually, I do! Pluto is just above the "teapot" asterism in Sagittarius right now in our (Sth hemisphere) skies and I absolutely love that amazing little planet. I do feel very strongly about it and think the IAU got it badly wrong with dwarf stars like our sun and about 90% of all stars being main-sequence core hydrogen burning dwarfs why shouldn'tr dwarf planets equally be considered full planets - and if you stuck Earth out where Pluto is it couldn't clear its orbit there either! Seems to me that "planet' is a rather key word to understand and the IAU definition limiting that term to just our Solar system has all kinds of other issues. My definition for "planet" would be a simple one of not self-luminous by core nuclear fusion thus not a star, not directly orbiting another planet thus not a moon and large enough to be rounded by its own gravity thus not an asteroid /comet. If that means we have hundreds of planets in our solar system, then so be it.

    So, yeah, it does matter to me. But then I am an astronomer & atypical here. Also I admit that unless you've got a star map, a good scope, dark clear skies and know exactly where to look Pluto is exceptionally hard to spot, Can't even see it in binoculars. Mind you, what we've seen of it up close from New Horizons earlier this has been pretty staggeringly wonderful.

    Also of course, Pluto's demotion was in Prague 2006 so before Obama's election. So ..Thanks Bush II? Thanks Mike Brown? Thanks IAU - or rather not.

    Plus we're still wa-aay ahead of Alpha Centauri planet count~wise, as that triple star only has one known planet (technically exoplanet) orbiting it and even that is contested and may not actually exist. Around its B star at that!

    PS. As for Columbus - you are spot on there! Guy was a brutal, murderous,well, arsehole.

    Tombaugh day (or Moon Landing Day? Armstrong Day?) would be awesome but I think a Native Americans day would be an apter replacement here specifically. Plus election day should be a US holiday too.But yeah.

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    1. Best comment on the net today. Thank you.

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  55. I'll admit, some comments from last year sparked this thought, (and they ARE from last year, which is why I'm not posting this as a reply) but perhaps this is worth mentioning.

    I don't believe our history should be whitewashed. I don't want to give that impression. I have no issue with dropping Columbus day, or renaming it, or whatever seems best.

    But in some (other) cases, it really does seem as though we tend to dig awfully deep for skeletons in the closet, just so we can avoid showing honor to people who really do make great strides forward for us all.

    There was mention of Thomas Jefferson's misdeeds. Does this mean we should discount every good thing he did? Or were the things that are generally held up as good, actually a positive influence on the nation as it went forward? It wasn't mentioned in that comment, but one would be hard-pressed to find live press coverage of FDR using crutches, or in a wheelchair, because the press at that time believed it would be inappropriate, and send the wrong message about the man. He had political enemies, then and now, and he had private failings. But are those enough to discount the good that he did?

    In my home state of Kansas, in our most recent election, the D opponent had attack ads run against him that essentially screamed that he'd been caught in a strip club. So? The guy who purportedly won the most votes (I take leave to doubt the count, but that's another matter) claims to be so very moral, yet he gives no evidence that he cares about his fellow man--evidence seems to say that the only thing he cares about is that he makes money, and follows his far-right playbook. He does NOT care if his policies allow people to die, or children to grow up uneducated, or roads to crumble. I don't, personally, care if he gets down on his knees every day at Mass, (or any other form of worship, whether it be "of the book" or pagan, or none) as much as I care if he does the job he was elected to do, which is lead and do the best for ALL of Kansans--not just the very few wealthy donors who funded his campaign.

    To talk of Johnny Appleseed, or Lief Ericson, or Wolf & Raven--brothers from at least some of the Native American myths and legends--doesn't require whitewashing all of their misdeeds. But if we're going to look for humans to look up to, to revere, perhaps we need to stop looking for perfect saints. Most of us have something we're not proud of in our history. Doesn't mean we can't contribute, if we try.

    Gretchen in KS

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  56. Jim, I would like to comment on the two points here.

    First, Columbus Day. I'm all for changing it. The webcomic The Oatmeal did a fantastic write-up on it and of a Spaniard who fought for Native American rights back in that time as well. But mostly I don't care. And I suspect most Americans are the same way. They don't care.

    This brings us to Pluto. And I do care about this one. Why? Because Pluto was demoted from planet status with shitty science. If you look at the definition of what a planet is, it becomes obvious that none of the nine planets are in fact planets. Comets, asteroids, and more regularly cross the orbits of all nine planets.

    Pluto was demoted because the group in charge of the planets decided to pull a list out of their asses and didn't think things through. There have been some logical definitions of what a planet is. Perhaps the best is that it has a round shape due to its own gravitation.

    Oh, and here's the kicker. You know the definition of planet does not apply to any planet that is not a part of the solar system? Heck, if you had a Jupiter-sized planet in the Oort Cloud, it would not be a planet because it didn't clear its orbit - it would be a dwarf planet despite being larger than the Earth.

    This is shit science. And this is why I'm against the demotion of Pluto.

    Rob H.

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