Monday, October 08, 2018

So, let's celebrate the real achievements today

Columbus Day celebrates a guy who sailed over here a couple four times, but then beat feet back home once he'd made life miserable for everyone he met here.

Instead of celebrating that, I think we should celebrate the people who came and stayed.  You've heard of the Pilgrims of course, who came for religious freedom.

But have you heard about the Rhinelanders who came in the mid 18th century? They came in search of a better life. They paid a tax to leave their homes in present day Germany. They knew they'd probably never see their parents or family staying behind again.

They took barges up the Rhine River to Rotterdam, then piled everything they owned, including their kids on a wooden ship and set sail across the Atlantic to a place they'd never seen. Every scrap of food and drip of water had to be packed on the ship. They cooked that food over an open flame on a wooden boat.

But they came. By the hundreds, then thousands.

A hundred years later, other people set off in search of a better life, not by sail, but by covered wagon drawn most often by oxen.

Most of them walked. Walked from Missouri to Oregon. When they got to the Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River, they winched the wagons down the steep slopes, using ropes around trees as braces.

A hundred years later you can still see the marks.

Their names are layered into our street names, our county names, our town names.  Their immense courage and determination to build a new life is what we now call American can-do spirit.

And this doesn't begin to count the folks who didn't arrive here voluntarily. Who came in chains, but survived. Who endured hardship we can't begin to understand, but survived. 

These are the people I hope we remember to honor today.  They weren't here first, but when they came, they stayed. And built.


mythical one-eyed peace officer said...

Well said....certainly celebrate people from all over the world - like my grandparents - who left (and continue to leave) all behind for an unknown and are a part of making our opportunities and our lives the gifts they are. We can still recognize that it took some balls for Columbus and his crew to go off into a great unknown as well.

Donnaeve said...

Wow - two days in a row - or is it three, and three comments. What do I win?


I love that story! I've not heard of these Rhinelanders, but to know those marks still exist makes me want to go on a trek out West. I am always fascinated by all that exists from out ancestors - from the street and town names you mention, to the rivers, creeks, etc.

I love visiting the NC mountains where American Indian heritage is abundant. Names like Nantahala, Watauga, Pisgah, Swannanoa and on and on.

Regardless, there's a reason we used to hear the US is a melting pot - it's true!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Not sure why but this post brought to mind an old Eagles song, one of those bodies of lyrics I argued to be poetry with my English Lit teachers in high school.

This song always sent a chill down my spine and brought tears to my eyes. The one line "..there is no more new frontier. We have got to make it here.." one of those undeniable truths that broke my millions of pieces into millions of more.

I give you The Last Resort by Glen Frey and Don Henley

She came from Providence, the one in Rhode Island
Where the old world shadows hang heavy in the air
She packed her hopes and dreams like a refugee,
Just as her father came across the sea

She heard about a place people were smilin',
They spoke about the red man's way, how they loved the land
And they came from everywhere to the Great Divide
Seeking a place to stand or a place to hide

Down in the crowded bars out for a good time,
Can't wait to tell you all what it's like up there
And they called it paradise, I don't know why
Somebody laid the mountains low while the town got high

Then the chilly winds blew down across the desert,
Through the canyons of the coast to the Malibu
Where the pretty people play hungry for power
To light their neon way and give them things to do

Some rich man came and raped the land, nobody caught 'em,
Put up a bunch of ugly boxes and, Jesus, people bought 'em
And they called it paradise, the place to be,
They watched the hazy sun sinking in the sea

You can leave it all behind and sail to Lahaina
Just like the missionaries did so many years ago
They even brought a neon sign 'Jesus is Coming',
Brought the white man's burden down, brought the white man's reign

Who will provide the grand design, what is yours and what is mine?
'Cause there is no more new frontier, we have got to make it here
We satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds
In the name of destiny and in the name of God

And you can see them there on Sunday morning
Stand up and sing about what it's like up there
They called it paradise, I don't know why
You call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

1968 barely out of my teens, I am a blond blue eyed all American girl standing behind a counter in a large department store in Johannesburg South Africa selling(American)Revlon cosmetics. Another employee, a girl who looks very much like me, begins to talk. She is thrilled by my accent, overjoyed by my presence because she spent her senior year of high school in Chicago as a foreign exchange student from South African.
We talk USA until I long for home and she shares her dream to return to her Midwest family. She explains that she can’t go back to the States for two years. She signed a paper... after the school year ended, foreign exchange students had to go back to their home countries and were not permitted to return to the US for two years.
“Because no one would leave,” she said, “everyone wanted to stay in the USA.” (I remember her reply exactly)

She had barely a year left before her journey of leaving everything behind, for the American Dream, was to begin. I often wondered if she gave up her homeland for the US. And because here is where she dreamed to be, did she stay.

The Noise In Space said...

I'm a strong supporter of changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. The movement has been growing for quite some time, and I think some cities have actually switched.

Laina said...

Maybe we should celebrate the people whose land was stolen, the Indigenous people? Seems like they have more right to the day than other people who invaded their homes.

french sojourn said...

Some of my family were results of the Highland Clearing. We all got here one way or another, or were already here. It's a great story with plenty of growing pains, but one that has enriched the world in many ways. Trying to be real positive today.


Katja said...

The Noise In Space, Laina:


Don't forget those!

Colin Smith said...

I gave up my bicycle (and it was a cool bike) and all my electrical equipment to move to the States. But probably hardest to give up was my family in the sense of being able to visit with my parents and brothers regularly.

Okay, I know this is not in the same league as the Pilgrims, Puritans, and others fleeing persecution and suffering hardship for a better life. But everyone who has chosen to move here makes sacrifices big or small. And it's something I want to remind people--especially my kids--when they want to diss the US. I chose to be here. I wasn't born here. I had to pay money and be quizzed by government officials to be allowed to stay. I made this place my home. And I haven't regretted that choice in over 26 years. It's not a perfect country, but I wouldn't live anywhere else in the world.

Showboat said...

Yes Laina, I agree! Janet, I’m a longtime lurker and have never commented before; hello! I was moved to leave my lurking cave because I was disturbed that you never directly mentioned indigenous people in your post. Please think carefully about that, and the significance of ignoring that history on today of all days. Thanks for listening.

Konnie Enos said...

In my church we believe Columbus was divinely inspired to find the Americas. Was he a righteous man? I don't know. I just know he was inspired to come here. If he had not "found" this land there would not have been any place for the the Pilgrims, Puritans, and Rhinelanders to come too. Because he made his journey, because the Pilgrims, Puritans and Rhinelanders followed looking for freedom, and because others also followed, we have our country today. Yes, the native Americans got the short end of this, but we believe there is a plan for America and we, as citizens of this country, should celebrate it. We should also work to retain the freedoms our ancestors fought so hard to obtain.

Katja said...

The indigenous people didn't get the short end, they got NO end.

They too were citizens, before everybody else. Before Columbus "found" the land - it was already there. It was theirs, and they have had their rights ripped off. While some people fought for their freedoms, they took away the freedoms of others. These mustn't be forgotten when you CELEBRATE.

Adele said...

The world is changing fast. I love that.

Meanwhile, Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians.

Elissa M said...

Just over 100 years ago, my Great-Grandmother divorced her alcoholic husband and came to the U.S. with three pre-teen daughters in tow. She made a life here for herself and her girls. I'm still amazed to think of what kind of gumption it took for a single mother to cross an ocean and raise a family back in a time when such actions weren't simply unusual, they were scandalous.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

When I became interested in my family history my mother gave me the research my grandmother had done. Wow, I thought, we are descended from three Mayflower passengers. We've been here on Cape Cod for over 400 years!

Then I remembered some of my friends growing up. They are Wampanoag Indians.

Brenda said...

Another vote here for an Indigenous People day. The best book I’ve read in the last ten years is An Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King.

John Davis Frain said...

Just wow.

The post. The comments. The community. All are welcome here and civility still rules.

I think I can agree with the spirit of the post and the comments. There's a lot of me to go around.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Love this post... Love the comments. ElissaM, Wow.

Is anyone familiar with "trail trees?" One-hundred years or so ago indigenous people bent saplings to mark trails, point the way to water, or the next camp for family/tribe members following behind. These trees, permanently bent in their growth, are rare and now mostly dead or dying. We believe we have one in the woods at the sanctuary. It's a huge and obviously very old tree, bent at the trunk. We've compared photos to the few that are remaining and it appears to match. It also points to a water source.

I'm deeply moved by what you said, Janet, regarding people who endured "hardship we can't begin to understand, but survived." While we struggle to comprehend the evil that has existed since the beginning of time, exists today, and will exist till the end of time, never forget the good. There is so much good.

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Jennifer Mugrage said...

I love the Indians, Native Americans, First Nations, indigenous peoples, or whatever it is the most respectful to call them. I don't say this sarcastically. We always want to choose a respectful term but it can be hard to keep track of which one is favored and which ones have come to communicate disrespect without intending to.

I also love the European immigrants. About a week ago I heard someone assert that the word "immigrant" is a pejorative term, with racial overtones. Not to me. When I hear it, I immediately think of the waves of Irish, Italian, Dutch, and Eastern European immigrants that came to America around the late 1800s and turn of the century. My ancestors. Even those who weren't pioneers went through a lot. I have been on a 48-hour international flight with small children, and standing in line at customs, I felt like something the cat dragged in. And that was in relatively modern, comfortable conditions. It's just hard, no matter who you are.

I don't know why the European colonization of America had to work out the way it did. Of course it was tragic and unfair for the conquered, just like so much of world history has been. For most of us, we have ancestors who did things we aren't proud of, as well as ancestors who had heroic moments and who endured much hardship, to whom we are grateful. Human beings, every one of them.