Sunday, June 6, 2010

The North Atlantic, Newark and Beyond

May 30, Day 12

That last day—Brittany and Robert leaving on a 4:30 am flight, the rest of us headed to the airport a few hours later, the last-night-party crowd in sad shape, but all packed and present. Of course, the usual glitches, such as Chrissy misplacing her passport and needing to search her luggage in the terminal.

Then the easier daytime flight across the Atlantic and arriving in Newark--the seeming endless passport lines, waiting for luggage, Amy’s luggage disappearing, a train to terminal A, security lines, Fred and Dawn having a wild adventure working on getting a bottle of port bought in Lisbon duty-free onto the next plane, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, a Bud Lite with John, then me paranoid double-checking the gate, finding that the posted info didn’t match our tickets, more checking, then suddenly the whole group having to jump up and get a different bus back to terminal C.

But we boarded our flight and took off. I noticed another plane just off a runway surrounded by security vehicles, lights flashing, but haven’t heard of anything on the news. And by the window in this smaller plane, I actually glimpsed the copper-green sliver of the Statue of Liberty, the first time for me. I’ve spent time in Kuala Lumpur, but never NYC, which in my head is still the realm of The Out of Towners street gangs, garbage strikes, and Kitty Genovese. Friends have suggested I update this mental map. Of course, I was concerned for the Statue of Liberty, for I had just seen Wolverine slice through one of her rays at the end of X-Men on the previous flight...

Yet another bit of dissonance sprang up.

On the long flight, I had watched the post-apocalyptic Book of Eli, which suggested the tragedy of blaming Christianity and religion for the violence in our world. And I began re-reading Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, An Indian History of the American West, in prep for an Evening class:

It began with Christopher Columbus, who gave the people the name Indios. Those Europeans, the white men, spoke in different dialects, and some pronounced the word Indien, or Indianer, or Indian. Peaux-rouges, or redskins, came later. As was the custom of the people receiving strangers, the Tainos on the island of San Salvador generously presented Columbus and his men with gifts and treated them with honor.

“So tractable, so peaceable, are these people,” Columbus wrote to the King and Queen of Spain, “that I swear to your Majesties there is not in the world a better nation. They love their neighbors as themselves, and their discourse is ever sweet and gentle, and accompanied with a smile; and though it is true that they are naked, yet their manners are decourous and praiseworthy.”

All this, of course, was taken as a sign of weakness, if not heathenism, and Columbus being a righteous European was convinced the people should be “made to work, sow and do all that is necessary and to adopt our ways.” Over the next four centuries (1492-1890) several million Europeans and their descendants undertook to enforce their ways upon the people of the New World.

Columbus kidnapped ten of his friendly Taino hosts and carried them off to Spain, where they could be introduced to the white man’s ways. One of them died soon after arriving there, but not before he was baptized a Christian. The Spaniards were so pleased that they had made it possible for the first Indian to enter heaven that they hastened to spread the good news throughout the West Indies.

Columbus and his Spanish sponsors have been much in view for us lately, in tombs and monuments, in the wealth of the great cathedrals, in the importation of species from the New World, as well as evidence of the great Portuguese empire, and it’s hard not to look back and wonder. It’s hard not to look ahead, and equally wonder, for we are the inheritors of all this.

But we arrived in St. Louis, everything except Amy’s luggage. We met our CC bus, and though on the trip I had forestalled Chrissy from rushing to American fast food in Costa del Sol and Seville, by saying that there they fried everything in fish oil and made the burgers with shrimp scraps, leaving Lambert Airport we almost immediately stopped at McDonald’s.

0 Responses

Post a Comment

Subscribe to our feed