Christopher Columbus

It is high time we changed the celebration of Christopher Columbus as the discoverer of America and universally make it Indigenous People Day.  The indigenous people that existed when Columbus “discovered” them were people who certainly deserve to be remembered. 

There will have to be a committee to decide which indigenous people are to replace the Columbus memorials.  The Kalinago tribe were cannibals and practiced infanticide. They were particularly fond of roasted infants. It will be difficult to find a sculptor who can tastefully (no pun intended) do justice to such a memorial. I am thinking that the indigenous cannibal devouring an infant’s thigh, although a bit graphic, does accurately represent them, and is so much better than the supposedly genocidal Christopher Columbus.   

Ritual murder (human sacrifice) was common among the indigenous tribes to please the gods.  They had particular skills in cutting out the beating heart of live humans using obsidian, which is sharper than any surgeon’s scalpel, but would also present a challenge for the sculptor tasked with designing the memorial. 

Possibly the Aztecs would be more appropriate. They were especially bloodthirsty, killing 84,000 people in four days of a killing orgy as a consecration festival for the great pyramid at Tenochtitlan. Now that was a decent genocidal effort. Honoring those barbaric indigenous tribes will fit much better with the current barbarian mobs that are running Portland, Seattle, and Chicago anyway. 

Christopher Columbus didn’t kill anywhere near those numbers.  Granted, he was a little miffed when he returned from Spain to find that the 30 sailors in Hispaniola he had left, had been killed by the indigenous people, and Columbus struck out in retribution.

In the 16th century, there was a political and psychological weapon used by the rivals of Spain to demonize it, minimizing its achievements and exaggerating depictions of violence in the conquest of the New World. Remember Spain lost the war with the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Intentional efforts to defame Spain and Catholicism created the “Black Legend,” well recognized by current academics. Subsequent historians propagandized with vast exaggerations.  Victors write the history! Elisabeth the First saw to it, and Columbus was one of its victims. Just reading one side of history often gives one the stilted point of view of the version they want you to believe.

The Taino were the first people that Columbus encountered, and most of them died of diseases like measles and smallpox which the Spaniard brought, but not because of any genocide. Admittedly, had Columbus not come, the diseases would not have killed such huge numbers. But one gift deserves another.  Syphilis existed in the Americas long before Columbus came. Bruce Rothchild, a paleopathologist, found convincing evidence that proves Syphilis plagued the Americas long before the arrival of Columbus. It was not seen in Europe until 1495.  Interestingly more people died of Syphilis over hundreds of years in Europe when the Spaniards brought it back from the New World, until Alexander Fleming discovered the cure in 1929, Penicillin.  The revisionist historians need to correct that bit of erroneous history. 

Columbus was a product of his times, by no means a perfect man, and flawed just like all humans. His goals were to find a route to Asia and trade for expensive and fragrant spices from the Spice Islands, and not to subjugate or kill indigenous people. He gave one-tenth of this income from his transatlantic voyages to the city of Genoa, his birthplace, to feed the poor. He adopted an indigenous boy and raised him as his own. He highly respected and lived in peace with the indigenous people that did not attack him or want to kill him. They even, of their own free will, helped him build a fort.  He praised their intellect and skills in his writings.

Obviously, he should have gotten better racist training, I would say. He did participate and profited from slavery and forced labor, as did many Europeans and much of the African ruling class. Slavery was also a time-honored way to deal with any indigenous tribe that was defeated in the constant intertribal wars long before Europeans brought slavery to their attention.  He was on record telling his soldiers to treat the indigenous population with mercy. He intended for them to become Christians and voiced the opinion that they had good comprehension for eventual conversion. This was the stated goal of all the Conquistadors of the time. 

In his own words, Columbus defended himself: “They judge me over there as they would a Governor who had gone to Sicily, or to a city or town placed under regular government, and where the laws can be observed in their entirety without fear of ruining everything, and I am greatly injured thereby. I ought to be judged as a Captain who went from Spain to the Indies to conquer a numerous and warlike people, whose customs and religion are very contrary to ours; who live in rocks and mountains, without fixed settlements, and not like ourselves; and where, by the divine will, I have placed under the dominion of the King and Queen, our sovereigns, another world, through which Spain, which was reckoned a poor country, has become the richest.” Columbus was accused of atrocities that were committed by his brothers in his absence that prompted Cristobal’s return to Spain in chains.  Isabella and Ferdinand exonerated him when the truth came out, giving him freedom, returning his assets, but not allowing him to govern.  The revisionist historians fail to tell the whole story.  They are selective in what they want you to know for reasons that are obvious. 

Lief Erikson discovered America some 500 years before Columbus but hardly gets any credit.  Perhaps we should replace the Columbus memorials with his likeness if we knew what he looked like. Of course, he kept his discoveries to himself as best as we can tell, eventually abandoned Vineland, and didn’t figure out the Atlantic Ocean currents and wind that consistently would get a ship back to the same place.  Nevertheless, he was there before Cristobal. It still took a lot of courage to venture forth into uncharted waters and ignore the wisdom of his critics. He was a master sailer and had learned the secrets of the Trade Winds making the crossing in just five weeks. He landed in the Azores to resupply. I was stationed there during the Vietnam conflict and visited the church where he prayed before the final push to his discovery, an event in my life that gave me the incentive to read all I could about Columbus. I have concluded that the mob historians are ignoramuses for the most part.

We have a habit of judging past historical figures by present-day standards.  It is called “presentism.” We selectively apply it, allowing some things to pass but not others.  It was okay for Apostel Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, VI,5-7 to preach, “Servants be obedient to them that are your masters… as servants, of Christ, doing the will of God…” to encourage slaves to obey their masters.  It was in the context of that time in history the mantra. It was acceptable for Torquemada to tear a person limb from limb to convert Jews to Christianity, that was what you did during the Inquisition! More recently, we excuse the taking of California and Texas from Mexico as our “Manifest Destiny.” It was overwhelmingly the democrats in the Senate and the House who kept slavery a states issue, which was the root cause of the Civil war, something we fail to note in the history books. Perhaps in addition to clearing out all Confederate generals, all the democrats (and it was mostly democrats) that supported slavery need to be purged from the records and artworks as well.

The mob historians are naive and quite forgetful, like forgetting that Ulysses S. Grant was on the Union side. I am sure they never picked up and read the rebuttal of the National Italian American Foundation in defense of Columbus. Once you start revising history, you need better evidence to do so. I am happy to help them, but I doubt they will ever call on me.