Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Columbus Day! Really? Why?

Happy Columbus Day! Really? Why?

When I was a kid, Columbus Day was excellent. We got a day off. My older brother's birthday fell on that day, October 12th. Columbus had after all, discovered America, right? Columbus Day was, awesome. But is it? He was a Hero. But was he? Why are some ethnic groups in America so down on him? Why has he fallen from grace?

Many of you by now have probably heard some or all of this, but it's good to know what the deal is and why we don't celebrate it like we used to. He was (is?) a National Hero, so we should know what the deal is. There is plenty of official Historical documentation available, one need only go look it up. And anymore, you can do it right from your home computer, or a touch pad on the bus, for that matter, or your phone. So there is no excuse to remain ignorant about things like this, when they are brought up.

I know my brother was bummed years ago when they changed the day Columbus Day fell on so that it could be attached to a weekend, which frankly now a days, is kind of superfluous. I know I don't get that "holiday" off from work, although I am taking it off this year. But I'm just using that day for some vacation time. I'm not doing it because it's Columbus' day, but rather because I just want a day off and that seemed like a good day to do it, when some people are getting a day off anyway.

So, why is Columbus the Great, being slammed and slandered like this? What in the Hell did he do to deserve this after his great adventure?

This is a tough article, because Columbus' actions were tough, brutal really while he was Governor. So, if you don't want to know or read further, simply know that we shouldn't be celebrating Columbus Day as it is really offensive if you consider his actions. It wouldn't be far different than celebrating Hitler's second in command, Himmler as a national Holiday. But if you don't believe me, or if you think that is nonsense, then please, read on.

Well, in a way, Columbus really hasn't  done do anything to deserve losing his Holiday; not recently anyway, not to change his bearing. Actually History did. That is to say, Columbus already did whatever he did to deserve his fall from grace. People just finally got around to reviewing what his History was about and what else he did other than "find" America (remember that people where here when he got here); and he didn't actually get "here", but to an island south of what is now the US; he did commercialize access to America, however; he then retired to the islands as Governor, and slaughtered a lot of natives one could easily argue was genocide.

Starting at the beginning, Columbus wasn't even actually the "discoverer" of America. As I said, Natives were already here. There is some evidence that Africans, possibly Egyptians, had made it to South America a long time ago. Norsemen (Vikings) had made it to North America before him. So he loses that "discovered America" title. Like I said, he was the one that lead to its commercialization and indeed that is important.

One down (okay, half maybe)

"Under the terms of the Capitulations of Santa Fe, after his first voyage Columbus was appointed Viceroy and Governor of the Indies, which in practice entailed primarily the administration of the colonies in the island of Hispaniola, whose capital was established in Santo Domingo. By the end of his third voyage, Columbus was physically and mentally exhausted: his body was wracked by arthritis and his eyes by ophthalmia. In October 1499, he sent two ships to Spain, asking the Court of Spain to appoint a royal commissioner to help him govern. By then, accusations of tyranny and incompetence on the part of Columbus had also reached the Court." - Wikipedia

So, he was made Governor.

"The Court appointed Francisco de Bobadilla, a member of the Order of Calatrava, but not as the aide that Columbus had requested. Instead, Bobadilla was given complete control as governor from 1500 until his death in 1502. Arriving in Santo Domingo while Columbus was away, Bobadilla was immediately peppered with complaints about all three Columbus brothers: Christopher, Bartolomé, and Diego. Consuelo Varela, a Spanish historian, states: "Even those who loved him [Columbus] had to admit the atrocities that had taken place." - Wikipedia again

I like this cartoon. I like it because it sums up my feelings. I'm not impassioned on this topic about Columbus. He didn't kill my ancestors. I don't even know anyone this affects. But especially with our modern attitude toward terrorism, it just doesn't make sense to celebrate Columbus Day any longer. And this isn't one of those things where the current consideration says ban him, then in a few years we'll change our mind. You cannot wipe out or ignore, Genocide. It really just does not make any sense, we're just continuing to do something because we've always done it. We need to evolve and make changes as time dictates.

According to the web site American Indian Source:

"The United States honors only two men with federal holidays bearing their names. In January we commemorate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., who struggled to lift the blinders of racial prejudice and to cut the remaining bonds of slavery in America. In October, we honor Christopher Columbus, who opened the Atlantic slave trade and launched one of the greatest waves of genocide known in history."

"From his very first contact with native people, Columbus had their domination in mind. For example, on October 14, 1492, Columbus wrote in his journal, "with fifty men they can all be subjugated and made to do what is required of them." These were not mere words: after his second voyage, Columbus sent back a consignment of natives to be sold as slaves."

"The Holocaust of Columbus alone killed four million people on San Salvador in four years. The genocide did not stop after this first four million people; they were only the beginning."

From my own readings in previous years I had found that the numbers were more like around 250,000 natives killed. Still, any number over zero, is a lot. Though back in those days, some were to be expected and even thousands would seem to be a lot. So in finding this next article, the numbers from the site above aren't so ridiculous.

A web page on the web site at MIT titled "History Not Taught is History Forgot: Columbus' Legacy of Genocide", says:

"Columbus's programs reduced Taino numbers from as many as eight million at the outset of his regime to about three million in 1496. Perhaps 100,000 were left by the time of the governor's departure. His policies, however, remained, with the result that by 1514 the Spanish census of the island showed barely 22,000 Indians remaining alive. In 1542, only two hundred were recorded. Thereafter, they were considered extinct, as were Indians throughout the Caribbean Basin, an aggregate population which totaled more than fifteen million at the point of first contact with the Admiral of the Ocean Sea, as Columbus was known."

That pretty much sums it all up. Should we continue to celebrate Columbus Day? I don't know. The MIT site says that we shouldn't try comparing him to Hitler or the Nazis in the terms of Genocide.

Again, the MIT article:

"To be fair, Columbus was never a head of state. Comparisons of him to Nazi SS leader Heinrich Himmler, rather than Hitler, are therefore more accurate and appropriate. It is time to delve into the substance of the defendants' assertion that Columbus and Himmler, Nazi Lebensraumpolitik (conquest of "living space" in eastern Europe) and the "settlement of the New World" bear more than casual resemblance to one another. This has nothing to do with the Columbian "discovery," not that this in itself is completely irrelevant.

"To this extent, he not only symbolizes the process of conquest and genocide which eventually consumed the indigenous peoples of America, but bears the personal responsibility of having participated in it. Still, if this were all there was to it, the defendants would be inclined to dismiss him as a mere thug along the lines of Al Capone rather than viewing him as a counterpart to Himmler."

So, celebrate Columbus Day? It's up to you. Check the documentation. For myself, I would prefer we drop that day. I have found memories of it from my youth, but how many lost their youth, that of their children, parents, loved ones and so on? I don't think that public figures should so much be held to account for many of their personal actions, President Clinton should never have been taken to task over his sexual conduct in my mind, that was the Republican Party literally throwing away millions of tax payer's dollars on a witch hunt.

So many others have lost their careers over, granted, stupid personal decisions, but as long as they govern adroitly, I don't have a problem with their personal lives, which should be held sacrosanct unless there is a real public bearing upon their actions.

However, genocide I believe, is a good ground to drop someone lite a melting rock.

So, thanks Columbus for the good times, and the good things you did. Good bye for you really bad judgement, regardless of your times and the Zeitgeist of your culture.

Ciao, fella....

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