Monday, October 12, 2009

Reclaiming Columbus Day

It's increasingly PC to spit on the memory of Columbus and his intrepid band of explorers. After all, you can't "discover" a place that already has people in it! And then introducing them to disease, slavery, and colonialism simply ruins all chances of having a Hallmark holiday in your honor.

But I think ol' Chris is unfairly getting the shaft. Here are three reasons Columbus should get historical amnesty and I should get the day off.

1) He may not have been the first guy on the continent, but he was the first guy to tell everyone else about it.

It doesn't matter if Squanto or Erik the Red were here first. They didn't tell anybody.

2) The moaning about the wretched treatment of the indigenous peoples tends to make the pre-Columbus Americas sound like the Garden of Eden when in fact they were just as horrible to each other as everybody else is.

Yes, Europe introduced them to guns, but before that they were happily beating each other's brains in with clubs and tomahawks. We unintentionally exposed them to various diseases (and no doubt got a few in return); sorry. My daughters do that to me all the time! Slavery? Europeans didn't exactly introduce the concept.

3) Neither Squanto nor Erik the Red had the foresight to found the US. Ok, neither did Columbus. But the latter's actions did directly lead to our existence.

While the loss of the US wouldn't have ended the world, it would have certainly postponed some very important advances such as electricity, airplanes, spaceflight, and the polio vaccine, not to mention the defeat of Nazi Germany. I say, yay for anything that led to the creation of the US.

I'm not campaigning for Columbus' sainthood, but it's time we give the guy a break. No one in history is as pure as the driven snow, but Columbus changed the world, and it's worth honoring his memory.


Jon said...

I was thinking about how unfair it is that people hold him accountable to modern-day standards, which he obviously didn't know about and may not have agreed with had he known of them. The same thing holds true with many other historic people, documents, etc.

I agree with you--let's celebrate the good that came from his actions, even as we remind ourselves that he wasn't a saint.

ChrisB said...

I certainly don't want to be judged by the standards of people 500 years from now!

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