Dear Fellow Consumers,
This is a departure from regular posting. However, I feel there is a need for this to be said. Another year has passed, and thus another round of the “Columbus Day Debate.” We all love having a day off. This day off from work however, should have no bearing on how we view history, and the aspects surrounding that of Christopher Columbus and his atrocities.
I’m sure many of you have heard of the movement to change the name of ‘Columbus Day’ to ‘Indigenous People’s Day.’ How is it that in the year 2017, there is still hesitation and debate on whether or not to change the name of this holiday? This is going to be my rant against Columbus Day, with reasons provided as to why it makes no sense.
Columbus sucked…a lot.
That’s a major understatement. I recently stumbled across a picture book I used to read in the 1st grade. It was a book about Columbus, and it shamelessly glorified his courage, wisdom, and accomplishments. It reminded me of how much false information we are fed about Columbus as kids. Columbus was never the trailblazer we were programmed to believe he was. In reality, he was a manipulative man with excessive greed, coupled with a massive ego. He was responsible for genocide, sexual slavery, and brutal violence directed at the indigenous. This is pretty widely available knowledge now, with more accurate studies and assessments in the academic world just a click away online. Bartolomé de las Casas‘ documented observations of Columbus and Spanish cruelty in the Americas is a good place to start, and is well-known by scholars and historians. A look at las Casas’ account, or even Columbus’ own ego-stroking diary entries will reveal truths about the nature of a man blinded by his inflated sense of self-worth. The history major in me could go more into detail about the degree of how shitty Columbus was, but this isn’t the focus of my current rant. I’ll push on.
Nothing was discovered
There were already people there before you. Ergo, you didn’t discover it. Simple, right? Even if for some reason, we’re only counting those who came to the Americas after the indigenous, the vikings still beat Columbus by centuries. Oh, and the “Columbus knew the Earth was round” thing wasn’t really a big deal, as most people during his day with an education knew that the world was round. Do you even “laws of planetary motion,” bro? Furthermore his “discovery” was an accident, and none of us has ever gotten a day named in our honor for making mistakes. I’d have the entire year if that were the case… ?
Italian American pride?
There are those who defend the celebration of Columbus today, citing his “accomplishments” as representing Italian American pride. I love Italian culture and there are an infinite number of things that Italians should be proud of; Columbus has no place on this list. In my opinion, he gave up his Italian-ness (made up word) when he decided to represent the Spanish monarchy in exchange for funding. His primary motivation was always wealth. He made deals with the monarchs that would guarantee his rights to a good percentage of wealth obtained through his journey. This didn’t really seem to have anything to do with a desire to bring glory to a host nation. The fact that he even went around to several different monarchs before Spain to receive funding says plenty. Oh, and there’s hardly any “American” element in this as well, since America (the U.S.) didn’t even exist at the time. If people don’t celebrate Mussolini and Italy’s Fascist phase last century as Italian American pride, why do the same for Columbus and his atrocities?
Similar absurd argument from people who just don’t like changing things that they’re familiar with. If you think Columbus did any of what he “accomplished” in the name of his country or God, then you’re likely mistaken. Unless of course, ‘country’ and ‘god’ are the Spanish words for gold, and I just didn’t know. Even if religion motivated Columbus, 1490s Catholicism probably isn’t Catholicism you’d praise today, just as I’m sure Catholics wouldn’t cite the crusades or burning “witches” at the stake as epitomizing what their religion is all about.
History is written by the victors argument?
Some look at the Columbus discussion and cite the famous Churchill quote, “history is written by the victors,” essentially using it to say “tough s***, we won.” That concept is just an apt observation of a pattern often seen throughout the history of man; it is not supposed to be a gold standard on which we are striving to live. It tells us that sometimes you have to look deeper, and explore different perspectives when looking at history because of the inherent biases involved in the writing of history. The “history is written by the victors” argument should actually be used to scrutinize Columbus’ actions, not defend them.
Who does it hurt when we change the name?
No one. Let’s be honest; Columbus Day offends more than it is used to celebrate. People who enjoy the day they get off, only care about that, and unlikely think about the historical significance of it. I mean, most people do the same for Thanksgiving, which is the holiday of standing in long lines, trampling one another, and in Hunger Games fashion dispatching of your foes in the name of capitalism. Point is, If we changed the name but had the day off, would you care? This isn’t about liberals being annoying and looking for something new to complain about. This is acknowledging history, and taking responsibility for and acknowledging the mistakes of the past.