I am enjoying a day off. I work for the federal government and today is a paid holiday – Columbus Day. Some want to think of it as Aborigines Day; that is fine with me. What is not fine with me is the divide by ignorant people being fueled by people who should know better about an explorer who linked Spain with the West Indies and South America.
The founder and CEO of the Imagine Institute, Eric Kasum, asks in a blog on the Huffington Post: why do we honor a man, who if he were alive today, would almost certainly be sitting on death row awaiting execution? My quick answer would point to a conspiracy between Catholics and Democrats in the 1930s claiming Christopher Columbus discovered America.
Just because it is a conspiracy doesn’t make it wrong. After all, it was the Catholic king and queen in Spain who sent Columbus out as a missionary, but that is another story. Then I read the rest of his blog and realized he is serious.
What is most upsetting about today’s version of Columbus as a mass murderer, slave trader, rapist, and illegal immigrant is that he was not an illegal immigrant. While he might have been those other things, he was also an explorer who dared to move west while the rest of his world sailed around the Horn of Africa trading in the East.
Along the way Columbus discovered a continent.
Even more upsetting is the fact that Americans, like Kasum, choose to be ignorant. It is as though they have no understanding of what “conqueror” means. It means a person who vanquishes; victor. Think: winner, No. 1, champ, or all powerful over the loser, the idea is foreign to Americans today because our forefathers moved to a notion of self-governing for all, even the conquered, after WWII. However, when studying history one must consider the times. To judge one in the past by today, or another period, is to commit a historical fallacy.
Keep history in context
David Tucker, of Ashland University, has an incredible essay in the Wall Street Journal explaining how Columbus acted. In summation, it was the only way he knew to act. History was filled with similar acts by victorious peoples over their conquered ones. Consider the Israelites taking the promised land. The Vikings raided Europe and sold Europeans to Muslims in Eastern Europe. Muslims who conquered much of Europe in the Dark Ages enslaved, looted and raped weaker Europeans. Tucker estimates Muslim raiders took some 1 million slaves between 1530-1780. That number pales in comparison to the estimated tens of millions of Africans captured by stronger tribes, enslaved then moved to other parts of Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East. The point is, right or wrong by today’s standard, that is how things were done throughout history at least prior to WWII. Slavery still exists, albeit on a much smaller scale.
Not something to celebrate for a man that raped and killed natives #ColumbusDay— 💕 (@simplyxbonita) October 10, 2016
While I could not find reliable estimates on Columbus Day sales revenue, many businesses used the weekend as an opportunity to score before Halloween and Black Friday . Brick and mortar stores such as Hhgreg, Barnes & Noble, Toys R Us, Home Depot, Sears and Macys attempted to lure shoppers in with 20-to 25-percent off sales. At least one “shopping expert” advised buyers to wait until after Thanksgiving for the really big savings.