It was Oct. 11, 1971.

After 20 months in the U.S. Army, I was scheduled to be discharged.

I had been counting the days.

But Oct. 11, 1971, was Columbus Day — a federal holiday.

And I had to wait one more day to put my uniform away.

Needless to say, Columbus Day has never been one of my favorite holidays since then.

Plus I never get it off.

So, I’m a bit prejudiced.

But in recent years, there’s been more and more opposition across the country to having Christopher Columbus honored with a federal holiday.

We haven’t always had a Columbus Day.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the holiday into law in 1937, largely as a result of intense lobbying by the Knights of Columbus.

They had a huge block of voters.

The holiday honors Oct. 12, 1492, the day when Christopher Columbus landed in the Bahamas.

He “discovered” the Bahamas, Cuba and Hispaniola — Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

But he never reached the United States.

Those opposed to the holiday say Columbus wasn’t even the first European to land in the Americas.

In the 10th century, Vikings explored Newfoundland, Canada.

Some say that Polynesians settled in South America before Columbus was born.

And Native Americans say their ancestors were already here hundreds of years before 1492, so they discovered America.

The late Dick Gregory, a comedian/activist, used to say that Columbus discovering America was “like me discovering your car in the parking lot.”

In South Dakota, they celebrate Native American Day rather than Columbus Day.

In Hawaii, it’s Discovers’ Day.

Berkeley, California; Seattle; Albuquerque; Minneapolis; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Portland, Oregon; and Olympia, Washington, have all established Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead.

So, really, do we still need Columbus Day?

Or is time to say good-bye?

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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