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COLUMBUS DAY LIKELY TO SURVIVE

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If people thought about it, which they haven't much for the past three years, Columbus Day might be declared a National Day of Rancor.

You would think a person's reputation would be safe after five centuries, and so it was with Christopher Columbus, the navigator being generally and uncontroversially celebrated for his daring, courage and seamanship in "discovering" America.Then came 1992 and time to celebrate the 500th anniversary of his arrival in the New World.

Columbus did not discover America, said the Scandinavians, on behalf of the Vikings; the Irish; the Welsh; and the Lebanese, on behalf of the ancient Phoenicians. They did. Descendants said the American Indian tribes did not need discovering and that, on the whole, it would have been better if Columbus had never come.

Revisionist historians happily flung gasoline onto the flames of controversy, arguing that Columbus had brought with him slavery, conquest, brutality, disease, environmental degradation and, most heinously in their view, Eurocentrism.

All that seems to have died down. The relevant congressional subcommittee reports that no legislation has been introduced to abolish the federal holiday named in his honor.

Whatever we think of Christopher Columbus, we are apparently not about to give his day back to the government.