Hey United States of Americans!
Welcome to the day that your country was first discovered! The virgin beach touched for the first time by foreign feet! Planting that flag for the first time and saying “I claim this land for Spain!” (though, obviously, in Spanish).
Yes, that’s right. First human beings ever to set foot on…
Wait a minute…
Who are all these people here?
No, see, I don’t like the Columbus Story. First off, it promotes a whole bunch of nasty things, namely, Imperialism, Religious Intolerance, and Slavery. Secondly, some of it isn’t true! People did not believe that the world was flat until Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue in 1492. That was a pet theory of a Scholar at the time who based all his calculations on… you guessed it… certain passages in the Holy Bible.
That’s why I like us all to join hands to celebrate Leif Erikson Day this October 9th. It’s the first true recording of Europeans encountering the “New World” (though it wasn’t quite so new to the residents). And it actually ends up a sort of funny anecdote. Did you know that our nation could have been called the United States of Vinnland?
It’s a funny story as to why it’s not. The reason is mostly… cheese.
When the expedition led by Leif met the people who were already sort of hanging out in what would become America, they exchanged some gifts with them (as was their custom with meeting new people). Being that these were Northern Europeans, their diet consisted of some rather odd things that you would not find in a typical Native American diet. One of the things that was most strange was this kind of odd white to yellow substance called “cheese”.
Now, many of us know the causes of lactose intolerance. In fact, some of you readers out there may very well BE lactose intolerant. So you must know exactly what the Natives went through when they got their first taste of this substance that the strange foreigners brought with them.
It took them a while to figure it out, but once the Natives had found out that it was the cheese that was causing them so much misery, they thought that these strange pale-skinned foreigners were devils sent to bring plague and misery to them. The natives then began to raid the newly established trading colonies until the Norse were forced to leave, as the trading and settlement venture not only became unprofitable, but downright dangerous.
What makes this better than the Columbus story?
To me, it’s an account of two people coming together, not the account of one people coming to conquer, convert, and subjugate. Sure, it did not end well, but instead of teaching us the lesson that conquering people is a sure way to gain power and influence, it teaches us about the importance of cultural understanding.
It also teaches the importance of understanding lactose intolerance.
So this October 9th, let’s all get some people together and have some cheese and some wine (it’s a theory that Vin-land actually means Wine-land, but that’s disputed) and remember the funny notion of human equality and brotherhood and all that.