I have a hard time believing that people are still celebrating Columbus Day. For whatever reason, it’s still officially a federal holiday. Not a “you get a paid day off of work” national holiday, but a “there won’t be mail in your mailbox” national holiday. With the spread of knowledge as to what really transpired in 1492 and thereafter, it seems inexcusable that Columbus Day would still be a national holiday or even more surprising that people are attacking the “politically correct” movement to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People Day. (Although, I do think we can come up with a better name.) I can only imagine that, for those people, “In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…” is about the extent of their knowledge on the topic. They probably also think he proved the world was round.
So let’s review the events real quick. Columbus didn’t “discover” America. To begin with, explorers (Leif Erickson, for example) had already traveled to North America 500 years earlier. Second, America was inhabited. That’s like walking into your neighbor’s house and moving your family in because you “discovered” a new house. Pretty much everywhere Columbus landed was inhabited, which was good for him, because that provided him with slaves to work in his gold mines and people to test his sharp swords on. Within 20 years of Columbus’s arrival, indigenous populations were decimated and cruelty reigned.
Don’t believe it? One of Columbus’s own men, who later became a Catholic priest, speaking of the cruelty of Columbus’s men said, “Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight as no age can parallel… My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature that now I tremble as I write.” Still don’t believe we’d create a holiday after someone this cruel? Well, let’s skip past the fact that Columbus was chained and brought up on charges of cruelty against the people he subjugated in his own time, and let’s look at the words of Columbus himself from his own journals quoted in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.
“They… brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features… They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… They would make fine servants… With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”
“As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.”
Like I said, I have a hard time understanding why people are still celebrating Columbus or why anyone thinks he is worth celebrating. He’d be tried on war crimes by any civilized government if he did the same things today. Don’t let his flowery Christian speech fool you either. That’s like interpreting the Crusades in the Middle Ages by what you know of The Billy Graham Crusades. Same language. Different animal. This is more than being “politically correct” and instead of dismissing it as such, let’s recognize it for what it is: atrocities that we have not only overlooked, but celebrated, for far too long. Let’s commemorate and recognize the people who truly (and unwillingly) sacrificed for this country, and lets allow the war criminals to fade away in shame and obscurity.
For more, listen to the last 20 minutes of our discussion below.