Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Columbus Day, A Final Thought
(Theodor de Bry, public domain, Wikipedia Commons)
Columbus Day has come and gone. I doubt anyone has any holiday letdown. I debated whether or not to put out a post on it and am electing to do a short one as I find something interesting about the day. First, a pop quiz.
Question: Columbus was:
A. An explorer credited with finding a route to islands in the Western Hemisphere;
B. A heck of a salesman to get the Spanish royal family to fund the trip;
C. A merciless genocidal colonialist;
D. All of the above:
If you picked D, you are correct, at least by my answer key. Columbus, as we were taught growing up, "discovered" the new world. I remember reading the "Meet so and so" series as a kid and sure enough, there was one on Chris. Here's the link to Amazon for the book:
These books did leave out the matter of what Columbus did to the native inhabitants of the lands he discovered. Rape, slavery, murder, torture, theft and the list goes on. One of Columbus' men, Bartolome De Las Casas, quit in disgust, became a Catholic Priest and reported on these acts. Columbus was even sent back to Spain in chains for his crimes, yet was pardoned by the King and Queen. Chris, after all, had been a good earner.
There are those who would rather not discuss Columbus' history, or at least the ugly side of it. One of the NYC Mayoral candidate, Joe Lhota said it was “I think that is an inappropriate question to ask on a day when we’re honoring his birthday,”
I certainly am not saying that everyone who celebrates Columbus is vouching for all his actions. My Grandpa Mike was a gentle, decent man. He also was a very proud member of The Knights of Columbus. I have his ceremonial sword.
So where does that leave us with Columbus? Should we cancel the holiday? There would be those who would say, "No." There is a pretty good editorial from the Denver Post by David A. Sprecace that brings up the good things that Columbus did (with a particular nod to the sailing routes he found) and points out that it was not just Columbus alone who did the bad acts mentioned above. This a quote that sums up what Columbus did:
"It is Columbus' method of discovery and record-keeping that distinguishes him from other explorers who may previously have "discovered" the New World. He opened the door to further discovery by explorers like Magellan, Cooke, Drake and Hudson. His discovery led to the creation of the greatest nation on Earth, the United States of America."
Columbus is a study in extremes, the good and the bad. He was a magnificent sailor. It is a shame that he did not stay on deck for then his history would have been one of amazing accomplishment. Instead, it is marked and stained with his actions done on land. Perhaps that is the best way to deal with Columbus Day, to remember what the man did, and remember all of it.
If we were to replace the holiday, I have a suggestion for someone to replace Columbus with. That, however, is for another post.
Be well my friends,