Although we in the USA celebrated Columbus Day last Monday, today is the official holiday. Last week I saw a number of “politically correct” cartoons and such that took a swipe at our official discover-er for the usual stuff: taking the land from the original inhabitants, spreading disease and wiping out native tribes, and overall heavy-handed, conquering behavior.
While all that is historically true, it has become fashionable to hate on Columbus and his shipmates. Instead of honoring him and his incredible courage to cross the Atlantic in three little, rickety boats – as the holiday was intended to do – we instead give into the currently “cool” trend to trash him.
I want to remind my readers that this behavior on our part is no better than his behavior. In fact, hating on anybody is always bad and very unhelpful. Up until 20 years ago, it was fashionable to honor Columbus. Then we started getting all politically correct and thinking we were cool because we discovered the other side of the story: that of the native Americans already in place when Columbus “discovered” America. Yes, of course it was awful to “take” the land from these Americans. But did you know that there is very good evidence to suggest their ancestors had taken it from the previous inhabitants? http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/09/0903_030903_bajaskull.html
This was the way of the world. It was not until America came along that any real change in that “way of the world” began taking place. For instance, look at America in Iraq. Whether or not you agree with the war in Iraq and our participation, you must concede that we did it not to conquer Iraq but to make it safer for ourselves and the Iraqis. Then we left. This is our gift to the modern world. To paraphase Julius Caesar: “we came, we saw, we DIDN’T conquer, and we left.”
If Columbus hadn’t set foot on American soil, then somebody else would have. That was the way things were done. And the way things are done in many other countries today. Look at poor old Zaire (now the People’s [un]Democratic Republic of Congo), Syria, and Libya. What a mess. One makes a grave mistake in judging people for being a product of their time and culture. Columbus was just that: a product of his times and culture. Do not blame him for doing what you would have done in his 15th Century shoes.
As always, forgiveness is the only answer to anything that bothers you. Columbus deserves our forgiveness. The native inhabitants deserve our love for being sorely used and our forgiveness for having taken the land from the people they took it from. Forgive Columbus and his shipmates, send love to everyone, and get on with your life, Columbus-haters. There is so much work to be done in THIS time and space. Don’t waste your energy on that old chestnut.
P.S. How do you know YOU weren’t Columbus or his shipmates in a previous life!?