Hello, dear readers! Today is Columbus Day, and I've brought in a few of my dearest friends to help talk about what it means. Just like last week, we have Dr. Ollie Aberdeen, Alynn McNeil, Lukas McCamden, and Running Horse.
I picked a tomato from my garden today. Just one tomato, since I'm not used to gardening in Texas yet. Since I don't like tomatoes, it's sitting on the table between the five of us. Alynn and Lukas are convinced it's poisonous, and to Running Horse it looks too much like a deadly nightshade fruit. And since Ollie's looking a little green today, our little tomato is simply sitting there, listening to our conversation.
"Who knows what Columbus Day is?" I ask.
Running Horse says a few things into her online translator, and the computer's automated voice replies, "It is a tour of the White Man."
"Does it have anything to do with clouds?" Lukas asks.
"You're thinking of cumulus," Ollie corrects. "Columbus Day clearly has something to do with Christopher Columbus, the man who discovered America. I'm a scientist, not a--" here he says a colorful word or two--"historian."
Running Horse tilts her head to one side in confusion. With the little knowledge of English she has, she pieces together the sentence, "What means--"
"It doesn't matter," I assure her. "Columbus Day actually marks the day Christopher Columbus discovered America. Which brings us to the question, how do you express patriotism?"
"We've St. Patrick's Day," Alynn says. "Father would usually get the day off work, but he'd find a job playing his timpan somewhere. And sometimes, there would be food at the church." She looks up at Lukas. "What about you?"
"If it means anything in the current discussion, I usually celebrate the monastery's founding date of July 12 by reciting the names of those who lived there before me. I do the same two days before Easter to commemorate those killed in the massacre."
Ollie shrugs. "Patriotism is kind of a lost art in modern America. I haven't heard anyone mention Columbus Day today, except that it means the banks are closed, which is a--" another choice word--"inconvenience."
Running Horse is confused again. "What means--"
"What's your opinion on patriotism?" I ask her quickly.
I try to rephrase my sentence so she'll understand it. "What do you think...about people who love their country?"
"Is good," Running Horse smiles before turning to her translator. "My people are the first inhabitants of the country. It is wise to honor us, and we remember in the state more than just a blue, white, and reddish."
"She's right," Ollie admits. "When you think about it, it is a good idea to honor the Native Americans on national holidays. But I personally enjoy the music, and the bunting, and all that crap. The fireworks give me a headache."
"What do you, personally, do to honor your country?" Lukas asks. He looks at Ollie first, and he looks a little sheepish.
"Well, I try to wear red, white, and/or blue on the Fourth of July," he says. "Heck, I'm a nuclear physicist. I make scientific advancements that keep America ahead of the game! I pay my taxes and stand for the anthem. Anything else?"
"Do you have an army?" Alynn asks.
"Army, coast guard, navy, police force--you name it, we've got it."
"You might try thankin' them, for keepin' ye safe."
I smile. Alynn's right. Patriotism isn't always wearing certain colors, flying a flag, or knowing your state flower--even though these things are honorable. Sometimes, it's doing something good for the country that's done so many good things for you.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.