Dear Jack: My Potentially Controversial Help on Your Columbus Day Homework

5 years, 11 months.Dear Jack: My Potentially Controversial Help on Your Columbus Day Homework

Dear Jack,

You had some weekend homework to do. So after I finished cleaning the bathrooms, hosing out your sandbox and putting it away in the garage, then sweeping out the dead spiders and dust from the garage, I sat down with you at the kitchen table to help you with your assignment on Christopher Columbus.

The instructions were to have a parent help you research the origin and history of Columbus Day, then determine for yourself in your own opinion, as a Kindergartner, whether you believe we should or should not celebrate Columbus Day.

With Mommy knowing I am a closet conspiracy theorist, she suggested I should be the parent to help you with your homework assignment. So you and I got to work, to verify what I already knew about Columbus Day.

After simply Googling “Columbus Day” on my own, only clicking on sites that ended in org., I read to you how Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean Islands, not the United States, while attempting to find a better route to Asia. I read to you how he and his men took back some of the native people and made them work for them, to understate it; and that Columbus’s men also took back some of the native’s riches to Europe, as well.

As I read this to you, I made a point not to add to the text, so that you could truly develop your own opinion.

I went on to read that Christopher Columbus supervised his men threatening the people of the “new land” with violence if they did not convert to Christianity.

Dear Jack: My Potentially Controversial Help on Your Columbus Day Homework

After reading those few excerpts from a few official resources online (all ending in .org), you quickly marked “should not” on your homework assignment.

Even if no one can know for certain the details, it seems that you perceive Christopher Columbus like a Marvel villain, not a superhero.

I then helped you spell the rest of the answers, which explained to your teacher and your classmates why you believe we should not celebrate Columbus Day.

Then, in your wisdom, you said to me (and Mommy, who was on the other side of the kitchen counter, finishing dinner), “Daddy, I think I’m going to be the only one in my class who says we shouldn’t celebrate Columbus Day.”

However, you said this in a tone that indicated confidence and determination, not fear or anxiety.

I responded, “You’re right. There’s a good chance of that. But I like your answer. You make a good point. Why should we celebrate a man who took other people away from their families and would possibly kill them if they didn’t start believing in God? And did he really discover new land if there were already people living there in the first place?”

As your answer explained, if you were Christopher Columbus, you wouldn’t have taken the people or their belongings back to Europe.

While I may not be the most popular parent, and while I may not be helping you to have the easy answer for your homework assignment, I believe what I am doing is helping you to truly think for yourself.

You will stand alone sometimes in your beliefs, throughout your entire life. But if your stance celebrates and honors what is morally right, even if it goes against mainstream tradition, you can stand up proud in your solitude.

Still though, you can know that I am standing up with you, even if I’m not physically there with you. Because I support my son who stands up for what is right, especially when it’s the unpopular thing to do.



Manspeak, Volume 10: Exploration

It’s not something we sit down and think about, but there is definitely something morbid, grotesque, and disgusting about a whole refrigerated bin full of chopped up bones, blood vessels, and body tissue for sale. With blood swishing around in the Styrofoam container. Somehow it never processes in my mind when I’m with my wife at the grocery store, walking by the Meats Department as we plan for that week’s meals.

Blood is an interesting substance. I am intrigued by the human love/hate relationship with it. It is the physical source of life- without it, we die. Blood is a major theme in both the Old and New Testament of the Bible, with countless traditional hymns and modern songs with the word in the title.

But for most, the sight of blood gives an uneasy feeling. With good reason. The sight of blood is a sign of death.

From a skinned knee to a busted nose, when blood leaves the body, it is life escaping.

While blood keeps us alive, we don’t usually want to see it. It’s definitely better kept inside. The main exception I have found to this is the male population. Like most American men, the Rocky movies along with Band of Brothers and Fight Club happen to be among some of my top favorite films of all time. All include a lot of blood. Why are men so fascinated by other men causing each other to bleed?

Danger. Seeing how close to the edge of life a man can get and still survive. A subconscious curiosity about life after death. To step up close to that window between life and death and try to look through it, knowing that once that line is crossed, there is no coming back to this life.

A form of exploration.

Three weeks ago when my company moved offices, I decided to take a walk around the development. I scaled down a steep hill on the other side of the building and found an interesting discovery, the kind I longed to find 20 years ago when I was a boy pretending to be a Ninja Turtle in the woods behind my backyard.

What I found was a 6 foot tall tunnel. I could barely see a light at the other end. After stepping inside and walking about 50 feet inside, not being able to see anything around me, and unsuccessfully trying not to think about the Saw movies , I pictured a creepy man wearing a pig skin mask, poking me with an anesthetic needle. Within about 10 seconds flat, I was back outside.

A challenge was now set in place: Must conquer the tunnel. I recruited my co-worker John. We made it just as far as I did alone, until he said, “I think I’m stepping on a snake right now…” After darting back outside to equip ourselves with big sticks we found outside underneath some trees, we marched back inside a little bit more confident this time.

We trekked the tunnel all the way through.  It was only a few hundred feet long, but at the end we found a metal ladder.  I climbed up to a welded shut drain opening, where I could see the sky and hear the cars cruising on the road above me. We did it. Made it to the end of the mysterious tunnel. And to this day, we are the only two people at our company to have explored and conquered that tunnel, not to mention the only ones to even know where it is.

While I am not “discovering the New Word” like Christopher Columbus did (even though the Russians had to be well aware of our continent based on the fact that there are only 53 miles of ocean between Russia and Alaska), I can still discover and explore not only interesting places that few people know about, but more specifically in my case I can uncover new social observations and conspiracies that seem to successfully slide under the radar. I thrive on it.

Why the true stereotype of the man ignoring his map and/or GPS and refusing to stop to ask for directions? A man is wired to explore new things. There’s no getting around it. The stereotype must live on.

“If you could keep me floating just for a while, ’til I get to the end of this tunnel…”  -Dave Matthews Band (“Jimi Thing”)

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography: