Columbus Day U.S.A.
Why don’t we have a Joseph Stalin day? Or an Adolf Hitler day? Or an Osama bin Laden day? Because it would be ridiculous, right?. We’d never honor these historical villains as heroes would we? Why most of today’s heroes aren’t worthy.
We all want our heroes to be real heroes – people we can emulate and respect; people worthy of our honor. We would never honor a human being who committed unfathomable atrocities. Right. We are careful of who our heroes are and we want to be certain that they represent the best, not the worst, in all of us.
Today, Americans celebrate Columbus Day – well “celebrate” may not be the right word. I don’t work for the local, state, or federal government. I don’t teach school and I’m not a student. So, today is not a day off for me. Columbus Day is just another Monday for me and probably you as well.
Maybe we should celebrate the man who “discovered” America. Maybe we should bake a Columbus Day cake with “Thank You Christopher Columbus” written on it in lovely green-mint icing. Or shot off fireworks. Or maybe we should invite our friends and family to a party where we could all drink, frolic, eat cake and really celebrate and honor this notorious Italian.
Who is this man that we honor? Who is Christopher Columbus? Why is he only one of two private citizens we honor with a federal holiday? If you said he’s the man who discovered America you’d be dead wrong. If you said he was a great explorer you’d be even more wrong. If you think he was even a great man, you be as wrong as you could be.
Many of you, like me, went to public elementary school in the United States during the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s, (I have no idea what they’ve been teaching since the 70’s in elementary school) and your first impression of Christopher Columbus, like mine, probably came from those cute little textbook pictures showing a smiling, elegantly-dressed, Christopher Columbus, looking aristocratic as he was welcomed ashore by an eager but backward bunch of child-like natives wearing little more than banana leaves and seashell necklaces.
Good old Christopher Columbus, standing triumphantly on the shores of this brave new world, handing out all manner European goodies to poor, uneducated, natives, who danced around him in giddy thankfulness. These poor savages, so happy that Columbus happened to stumble upon their pitiful, uncivilized world to save them. You can almost hear the beat of Tainos’ beating their rudimentary drums in delighted frenzy. Finally, someone had come to civilize them and rescues this pathetic race from their own ignorance.
Until recently, history has been very kind to Christopher Columbus. Now we know that Columbus was no more the discoverer of the Americas than Neil Armstrong was the discoverer of the moon. All those memories and history lessons we were taught in grade school strewn about us now in tiny shards of broken bits of truth. All debunked by the harsh light of the truth.
So, what’s the truth about our hero, a man we’ve honored with a federal holiday? What kind of man was Christopher Columbus. Does he deserve the federal holiday we’ve given him? Should he be revered as the discoverer of America? Should he be revered at all?
First, Christopher Columbus was not his real name. His name in Italian is Cristoforo Colombo and, in Spanish, it is Cristóbal Colón. But here, we’ll acquiesce and call him by his anglicized name.
To picture Columbus as a brave explorer setting sail into the unknown with discovery and exploration as his reward is wrong. Columbus sought power and wealth at the expense of others. Sounds a bit modern – almost like some people in today’s world doesn’t it?
It sure flies in the face of those happy little pictures we saw of Columbus in grade school.
“…Columbus did not sally forth upon the Atlantic for reasons of “neutral science” or altruism. He went, as his own diaries, reports, and letters make clear, fully expecting to encounter wealth belonging to others. It was his stated purpose to seize this wealth, by whatever means necessary and available, in order to enrich both his sponsors and himself. Plainly, he pre-figured, both in design and by intent, what came next. To this extent, he not only symbolizes the process of conquest and genocide which eventually consumed the indigenous peoples of America, but bears the personal responsibility of having participated in it. Still, if this were all there was to it, the defendants would be inclined to dismiss him as a mere thug along the lines of Al Capone rather than viewing him as a counterpart to Himmler….” (Read more…)
Did our hero even discover North America? No so much…
“…Columbus’ voyage has even less meaning for North Americans than for South Americans because Columbus never set foot on our continent, nor did he open it to European trade. Scandinavian Vikings already had settlements here in the eleventh century, and British fisherman probably fished the shores of Canada for decades before Columbus. The first European explorer to thoroughly document his visit to North America was the Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto, who sailed for England’s King Henry VII and became known by his anglicized name, John Cabot. Caboto arrived in 1497 and claimed North America for the English sovereign while Columbus was still searching for India in the Caribbean. After three voyages to America and more than a decade of study, Columbus still believed that Cuba was a part of Asia, South America was only an island, and the coast of Central America was near the Ganges River.
Unable to celebrate Columbus’ exploration as a great discovery, some apologists now want to commemorate it as a great “cultural encounter.” Under this interpretation, Columbus becomes a sensitive genius thinking beyond his time in the passionate pursuit of knowledge and understanding. The historical record refutes this, too….” ( Read more… )
What is Columbus’ legacy besides being a bumbling explorer who happened to land in the Caribbean by accident and thinking he was in India? Well, he was a slave trader and a very brutal man who played a role in the near extermination of an entire race of human beings. Raping, pillaging, enslaving and murdering as he forced his European values on a pacifist race of human being known as the Taino . Columbus mistakenly referred to the Taino as Indians because, after all, he thought he had found a short route to India.
“…Columbus decided to pay for his voyage in the one important commodity he had found in ample supply — human lives. He seized 1,200 Taino Indians from the island of Hispaniola, crammed as many onto his ships as he could pack in, and sent them to Spain, where they were paraded naked through the streets of Seville and sold as slaves in 1495. Columbus tore children from their parents, husbands from wives. On board Columbus’ slave ships, hundreds died; the sailors tossed the bodies into the Atlantic like so much trash.
Because Columbus captured more Indian slaves than he could transport to Spain in his small ships, he put them to work in mines and plantations which he, his family, and followers established throughout the Caribbean.
His marauding band hunted Indians for sport and profit — beating, raping, torturing, killing, and then using the Indian bodies as food for their hunting dogs. Within four years of Columbus’ arrival on Hispaniola, his men had killed or exported one-third of the original Indian population of 300,000….” (Read more… )
There are only two private citizens who have earned the honor of a federal holiday: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Christopher Columbus. Martin Luther King, Jr. although certainly not a saint, worked for equality and justice and to correct many social injustices.
Christopher Columbus opened the Atlantic slave trade, pillaged, plundered, and raped the pacifist Taino -while leading one of the most tragic and prolific campaigns of genocide in human history.
Today is Columbus Day. It is a federal holiday in the U.S.A. It is day honoring Christopher Columbus. And who was he? Columbus was an adventurer no doubt. But he was also a conniving, bumbling, cruel man who killed millions and enslaved hundreds of thousands. Columbus brought forth upon the “new world” enormous suffering, while nearly wiping out an entire race of people.
But Columbus actually discovered nothing.
Why don’t we have a George Washington Carver Day? Or a Thomas Edison Day? Or a Nikola Tesla day? Many people of more recent times are a whole lot more deserving of the honor bestowed upon Christopher Columbus, the mass murderer and enslaver.
I wonder what that tells the rest of the world thinks? Well, there’s not much we can do it about it now. The United States is replete with cities, parks and streets named “Columbus” and I really don’t see any way of cleaning Columbus out of our country. Currently there are 54 communities in the U.S.A. whose names carry on the legacy. or Christopher Columbus.
After reading much about this “hero” of the past, I’ve made a little “discovery” of my own. And, it’s good news! Our world today isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was. Even the worst of our modern day so-called heroes seems to be a lot better than Christopher Columbus.
I wonder how many other men and women of the past, who we revere as heroes, are not worthy of our honor? But maybe we’ll never learn the truth about them. Maybe that’s a good thing too. We might not have very many heroes left if we did.
Happy Columbus Day!