Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Deeper Meaning of Columbus Day

As we do each year at this time, while the wheels of governance lie briefly idle, and ochre and russet creep into the leaf,
the lawnmowers having fallen silent,  the rakes not yet out of the shed,
we offer this classic essay on the discovery of America.

Certain people -- cranks, for the most part, after the fashion of Baconists -- strenuously maintain that the American continents were discovered well before Columbus.   And after extensive researches into ancient evidence, abetted by the most advanced techniques of modern science, we must concur to this extent:  The discovery happened a very very long time ago;  and it was made by none other than penguins.

Thoughts for Columbus Day
[Originally posted Monday, October 10, 2011]

Scene: The Earth.  Time: The last glaciation.

It was cold. -- How cold?

Cold enough for the seas to descend, or to freeze to solidity; so that feet might pass the Bering Strait, leaving the tired old world  for the undiscovered new.
And such was the route (so historians tell it) by which the New World was first peopled. 

And yet these scholars neglect one simple fact:  It was so d*mned cold, so effing cold, that, any normal person, it’d freeze his f***ing b*lls off.
Which leads, by simple syllogism, to the novel yet suddenly irrefragable fact:  Who passed the Strait on that fateful day, were no men as we now know them, but such Beings as scoff, as laugh at ice -- their laughter bell-like in the  frigid air.  And so we are forced to this startling, yet eminently logical conclusion: (I anticipate a Nobel, or at least a MacArthur, for noticing this): Native Americans are the lineal descendents of penguins.
            The contentious might object, that the migration route of the Amerindians went via the northern polar regions, whereas the penguins of today inhabit Antarctica, somewhat to the south. The objection may, however, be overcome, via – mm – symmetry considerations.

            To be sure, a people which could eventually settle in MesoAmerica and the Caribbean  must have lost, over time, their original solid penguinity, much as salamanders, long confined to subterranean caves, in time may lose their eyes; thus leading to the present-day American anthropoid fauna's sadly decayed state.  And this, no doubt, by the same Mendelian-chromosomal processes which originally led to their distant ancestors, beginning from humble vertebrate beginnings, to attain that exalted, richly feathered, impeccably streamlined  pinguinal state. (I invite the lab lackeys to iron out the details.)



So, a bit of merriment for the long-weekend.  But the holiday indeed is increasingly under attack, from the professionally offended.  The calendar on our kitchen wall (a freebie some corporation sent to my wife) is so politically correct, that it does not list Columbus Day, even though it’s a federal holiday.   But I mean -- that’s the kind of information that calendars are for;  that’s their point.   Even if you personally don’t have that day off, and couldn’t care less about the holiday, you still might like to know that there won’t be any mail delivery or pick-up on Monday.  
Latest twist:  The speaker of the New York City Council, no less, one Melissa Hypthenated-Surname Whatever, is demanding that the statue of Columbus be removed from … Columbus Circle.  (She has not yet weighed in on whether Columbia University should be renamed, or simply destroyed.)

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