One man's view of theology, sports, politics, and whatever else in life that happens to interest me. A little bit about me.

Monday, October 13, 2014

What Are We Celebrating on Columbus Day?

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
In 1493, Columbus plundered all he could see.

So today is Columbus Day in the US. For most Americans, this is one of those "holidays" where everything is normal except the mail doesn't run and the banks are closed. But what are we "celebrating?" Obviously Columbus's voyage and the exploration and colonization that followed are significant events in human history. But is that worth celebrating?

I, for one, think not. First of all, from a human perspective, Columbus did not "discover" the Americas. There were already civilizations here in the Western Hemisphere before Columbus ever got here. And Columbus wasn't even the first European to set foot in the Americas. There is plenty of evidence that Norse sailors explored the eastern coasts of Canada and possibly the US, and established trading relationships with the local tribes at least three centuries before Columbus.

Secondly, the voyage of Columbus resulted in centuries of violence, oppression and exploitation as Spanish, Portuguese, English, French and other European powers invaded the land, stole resources, enslaved the locals and eventually brought in more people from Africa and other places to enslave and exploit in their colonies. We all know about the enslavement of Africans in the US by the English and Americans. Sadly, the slavery that occurred in the Caribbean islands at the hands of the Spanish and the French was likely worse than slavery in the US. And we all realize the treatment of the natives by all of the European powers was shameful and wrong.

But we can't blame all of that on Columbus. He was merely trying to please the Spanish royals by trying to find an alternate route to China that was not already controlled by the Portuguese or the Dutch. Most of the articles that sound something like mine printed today will blame Columbus for all these things, and that's really not fair. It's more fair to blame the governments responsible for all the bad things that occurred.

But we can't rewrite history, can we? Moving all people of European or African ancestry "back to where they came from" is not a realistic proposition. The fact is that a sizable portion of people living in the Americas have native ancestry. That includes me, as I have native ancestry on both sides of my family. It would be a terrible shame to punish people living now for the bad things perpetrated by their ancestors hundreds of years ago, as it would be shameful to dismantle so many of the good things that European influence has brought to the Americas. 

I'm not going to deny either the bad or the good that resulted from Columbus's voyage. It left an indelible mark upon the history of mankind. But because there is undeniably so much evil that occurred in the wake of the voyage, I don't think it's right to "celebrate" it. Not that my writing here will make much difference, but hopefully it made some difference in your mind. Thanks for reading.

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