Columbus Day has attracted its share of detractors in recent years among indigenous peoples' groups and others. That's not to mention the widening recognition that Christopher Columbus ended up in the Americas through some remarkably bad navigational skills and then set about conquering its people through slavery, disease, and other little bits of nastiness.
Suburban St. Louis business owner Karl Frank Jr. has always had similar sentiments. While taking in media reports on the death of Neil Armstrong that compared the shy moonwalker to Columbus, Frank says a light bulb went off. He contacted a few nerdy friends and soon a petition was drafted to re-dedicate Columbus Day as "Exploration Day."
As the description on the White House Web site's "We the People" open petition site reads:
We propose that Columbus Day be re-dedicated as Exploration Day, for the true American spirit is about achieving the impossible through exploration, scientific research, innovation and creativity. America continues to inspire the dreamers, the courageous, the adventurers and the resolute to reach farther, to build greater and to strive to make America that more perfect union.
The case for rechristening the holiday is also buoyed by a year filled with major milestones in space exploration, including the successful landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars, SpaceX's first commercial docking with the International Space Station, and Voyager's managing to transport an 8-track tape-based computer to the edge of the solar system.
The Exploration Day Board of Advisors is also stacked with nerds, including a handful of astronomers, science writers, and researchers. In a way, it's quite apropos -- many of the indigenous peoples of the Americas were noted astronomers.
Let's just hope that if this whole Exploration Day takes off (there's been some media coverage, but petition signatures as of this writing still number only in the hundreds) and pushes us further into space that we learn from the lessons of Columbus.
Hopefully the people of our first intergalactic colony won't one day have to consider rededicating "Planetary Human Conquest Day" to something a little more politically correct.
Let us know in the comments if you think it's time to ditch Columbus in favor of something a little less colonial. Surely the parade floats for Exploration Day would be more interesting.