Once a year, as Columbus Day rolls around, we have another great opportunity to mock, belittle and condemn the explorer who discovered America and the people (mostly Italians) who honor him.
Over and over, we are reminded how he opened the door to the "European invasion" that decimated and enslaved the innocent and peace-loving First Peoples who only wanted to live their lives in the natural and unblemished beauty of their Eden.
How much better off would they have been if they only had been left alone by the jingoist, Christian white men whose only purpose was to rape, steal and murder innocents?
After all, as we all know, Native Americans did not engage in wars of attrition and genocide; the Iroquois did not drive the Potawatomi from their lands in the East, forcing them farther west into the Midwest. Slavery was unknown to the tribes and the idea of a "warpath" was a myth constructed by imperialists who want to rewrite history. Europeans introduced the idea of human sacrifice to these high civilizations that respected life in all of its forms. Indigenous peoples didn't know communicable disease or any environmental disasters; 15,000 people abandoned Cahokia because they just felt like it. Hundreds of warriors (are we permitted to call them that?) descended on and massacred a much smaller column of settlers fleeing Fort Dearborn because they were provoked by their leaving.
Pick a pestilence, a genocide or any of the other numerous disasters that plagued Native Americans, and you can blame Chris and the throngs of evil white people who followed for him.
All right, all right. Save your response. European (and other pioneers) committed horrible atrocities. They did plunder, rape, enslave and decimate vast Indian populations. They robbed people of their lands and destroyed their dignity. Often in the name of spreading Christianity or greed. It was an example of how advanced civilizations throughout history replaced stone age and lesser civilizations, but that doesn't justify the shameful treatment of one culture by another. Guilty, guilty, guilty.
But can we give all the self-satisfied moralizing a break? Christopher Columbus' accomplishment was to reject the flat-earth thinking of the day and put his (and others') life on the line in pursuit of a dangerous, but scientifically sound, hypothesis--that you could reach the East by sailing west. And yes, he "discovered" a new world unknown vast numbers of people and nations. And yes, it helped spread throughout the world those cultural, economic, technological, moral and religious ideas and practices that had value.
Whenever I hear the annual thrashing of Columbus, and by extension, the civilization that today has advanced the human condition beyond the stone age, I wonder what should have been done instead? Not discover the New World? Give the Canarsee tribe back what they were paid for selling Manhattan. (They reportedly were selling another tribe's land.) Give them Donald Trump's properties as reparation?
Yes, white explorers and settlers should have treated the indigenous populations more justly and humanely. So, let's create a new national holiday called Indigenous People's Day in which we can celebrate their culture and remember their sacrifices. Even better, let's introduce into our schools some real history that tells all sides of the story instead of the currently popular Columbus bashing.
Find out what freelance editorial services I can provide for you.
Want to be notified by email when I post? Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.