ancient architecture

Egoistic Entitlement: The Columbusing of America

Yesterday the Biden Administration was the first to officially commemorate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. A laudable effort to refocus the federal holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus toward an appreciation and recognition of those actually native to lands now called the United States of America. It’s been a long time coming.

Indigenous people versus an illogical obsession with Columbus are both topics covered in my Other Worldly series.

Beginning with Alienable Rights, protagonist Rowan Layne first hears a Red Orbiter alien use the derisive term Columbusing.  As Raucous Wilde explains, “Columbusing is a Red Orbiter jibe about Americans because they named so much after a foreigner who never set foot on US soil.”

Rowan answers, “I appreciate the snark. It is pretty pretentious to claim one guy discovered a continent that others have been on for thousands of years.”

“Try millions,” said Raucous Wilde.

Pretentious doesn’t begin to cover the hubris and entitlement of a mentality that lauds a man coming from another continent to maraud, to enslave native peoples as if they were not human and not deserving of dignity and respect. Not to mention an egoistic failure to recognize that their homeland was not some uninhabited space to be claimed as “discovered” by a foreigner who accidentally happened upon it.

Then there’s the egocentric, myopic view of Americans that the US is the only nation—or the only one that matters—on the continent of North America.

In the US, the adulation of Columbus is particularly farcical. Despite the glaring reality that the not-so-wonderful man was never actually here, we have cities and rivers and any number of landmarks named for him, plus a federal holiday in October. But the abhorrent absurdity didn’t begin or end there.

In Feeling Alienated, second book in the Other Worldly series, there’s an ongoing theme regarding the self-serving and sickening US property law precept of first in time that Rowan Layne learned in law school. A ludicrous concept that she describes as “the utter ridiculous notion that Anglo Pilgrims were somehow first in time on American soil, so might makes right when it comes to who owns commandeered land.”

As a Red Orbiter US senator from Nevada puts it, “At least cities like Las Vegas were named by Spaniards who did actually venture into this valley. And Nevada was inhabited by the Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe long before Europeans showed up and named it for snow-capped mountains.”

As an aside, and as it so often happens when I read excerpts from my novels to writing group participants, I received written comments such as, “Is this part really necessary?” or “Is this relevant?” when I shared this passage.

It would appear that there are still those of European descent living in the USA who don’t want to grasp the reality that their ancestors did not discover America and were most certainly not first in time to arrive on what was later proclaimed to be US soil.

The ongoing heraldry of Christopher Columbus heinously perpetuates this fantastical fallacy. And it’s not only relevant, it’s almost entirely the point of my novels.

When discussing ancient Puebloan architecture of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico in Alienable Rights, Rowan Layne laments, “Here I’d traveled to Great Britain to see, touch, and experience thirteenth-century castle ruins, all to later discover ninth-century dwellings right here at home that were conveniently never mentioned in American history textbooks. First it time, my patootie!”

Cultural resources from indigenous American Indians, including places like Chaco Canyon and ancient rock carvings called petroglyphs in spots like Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, feature in my Other Worldly novels. Today, we can only speculate as to the meaning of symbols wrought by the Anasazi, or ancient ones, which is why my works are what’s known as speculative fiction.

In Aliens Abound, it would appear that Americans are headed into their same marauding mistakes with the creation of a Space Force, such that, as the (actual) Secretary of the Air Force under the previous administration crowed, the US can dominate outer space.

As Rowan Layne says in her address to Congress over American aggression in space, “We proclaimed it our Manifest Destiny to plunder, to ignore existing identities and culture—and to annihilate them when they objected by defending themselves with the very violence perpetuated on them…We’ve already ordained ourselves superior to heedlessly consume our own planet’s flora, fauna, and resources as if they were limitless, as if without consequence to every living being. And when we learned they were not, we looked to space to feed our all-consuming need to dominate and destroy. We are the menace we have made aliens out to be.”

That need to dominate and destroy didn’t begin or end with Columbus. But we can certainly do better in this nation than to venerate marauders with a mentality that might makes right when you’re male and white.

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