March 29, 2010
Why Columbus Day Should Not Be a Holiday
Christopher Columbus has been viewed as a hero for several centuries. Children in elementary schools all over the nation are taught that he discovered America. However, there were many other people who were indigenous to the land already and the Vikings arrived in America almost 500 years before Columbus. Christopher Columbus, as it turned out, was responsible for widespread genocide; he permitted his men to rape, murder, mutilate and enslave indigenous people. The evil deeds of Columbus far outweigh the few accomplishments he achieved. It doesn’t make sense for the United States to recognize this supposed Christian with a national holiday, so America should stop celebrating Columbus Day.
The initial recorded Columbus Day celebration in the United States was on October 12, 1792. Nevertheless, the first official Columbus Day happened in 1892, when President Harrison issued a proclamation for Americans to commemorate the day. The Knights of Columbus lobbied state legislatures to legalize the holiday. Colorado did so on April 1, 1907. New York followed suit in 1909. In 1971, Columbus Day was designated as a federal holiday on the second Monday of October (Library of Congress).
Authors Peter McDonald and Lynn Anderson said, “Where the greatest need for re-education is apparent, is in understanding that the brutal vision of conquest which Columbus ushered in so long ago continues unabated to this day.” Columbus did not discover America as so many of us have been led to believe. The definition of discover is “to see, get knowledge of, learn of, find or find out; gain sight or knowledge of something previously unseen or unknown” (Random 563). Textbooks generally disregard his many crimes committed against humanity by intentionally omitting them, simultaneously magnifying his role as a great navigator. They glorify him and humanize him to induce readers to identify with him. This process is known as heroification (Loewen 9).
Scientists and archeologists have proven Asian people traveled over the frozen land between Siberia and Alaska, approximately 15,000-25,000 years ago. These nomads continued moving all the way to South America. By the time Europeans arrived in America, there were already at least forty to fifty million indigenous people inhabiting the land (Faber 4-5). Other explorers, from Norway, Greenland, and Iceland reached America centuries before Columbus (Faber ix). Although these people attempted to live in this new land, they didn’t stay long, and failed to create a lasting historical impact (Faber 20-26).
Columbus never even walked on what we now call the United States of America. Where ever he did land, he was motivated only by his own greed. Columbus came for the gold, spices, and slaves. In his diary, he mentioned gold 75 times just in the first two weeks, alone (Katz 13). Indians who weren’t able to find gold, were punished by having their hands cut off. Most slaves died en route to Spain. Many Indian females were taken as sex slaves, some as young as nine and ten years old. Columbus forced cooperation from the Indians by disfiguring them and using them as examples. Even worse, he used hunting dogs to tear the Indians apart. Many natives committed suicide, and murdered their own children to save them from such a horrible life. Those who survived the voyage were worked to death. Still, another huge portion of these Indians died from disease brought over by Columbus and his men.
Authors Peter McDonald and Lynn Anderson stated,
Even by the standards of his own day, Columbus was considered excessively blood-thirsty and ineffective as an administrator, so much so that his fellow conquistadors disavowed him… Meanwhile, the slaughter of innocent Indians continued, roasting them thirteen at a time over open fires in the name of the Twelve Holy Apostles and the Lord, their Savior (6).
There are some arguments people may present in defense of Columbus Day. For instance, Columbus was a Renaissance explorer. He founded the initial permanent European settlement on the new continent and his arrival set the stage for the start of American history. Another cause for discussion would be Columbus provided a newfound cultural exchange between America and Europe. Still further, the United States has admired Christopher Columbus for such a long time now and we have an immense amount of statues representing the hero we portray him as. Columbus Day is a source of pride among Italian Americans, who represent the fifth largest ethnic group in America today, as well and there’s no other Italian holiday in America. To these statements, one could agree that Columbus did in fact usher in Europeans and everything else related to the old world. Some of those related things include disease, genocide, and barbaric behavior in the name of Christianity. Cultural exchange ought to be more properly defined as cultural dominance, meaning the Europeans dominated and destroyed the hundreds of already existing cultures of the indigenous people. While it’s true we’ve put Columbus on a pedestal for so long, that doesn’t indicate the correctness of continuing an old tradition. Many traditions are fraught with ignorance and stupidity. People should remember silly superstitions of yesteryear such as “the world is flat.” There are indeed, many statues of Columbus. However in 1993, a statue of Albert Pike was forcibly removed from Washington. For almost a century, Albert Pike was viewed as a hero until it became public knowledge that he was the founder of the KKK. Having statues of oneself does not necessarily mean one were a great person. It only means people thought so based on what they knew about that person.
We should not eliminate the Columbus Day holiday altogether. Rather, we should change its dynamics. Celebrating the accomplishments of Christopher Columbus is relatively comparable to celebrating the life and times of Adolf Hitler. It would be more significant to celebrate the lives of the victims; those people who were here before us all. Perhaps this new holiday should be called “Native American Day”. In spite of their massacre, we, the people of today have learned so much from them.
Christopher Columbus. N.d. Bonney Organization. Ask.com. Web. 28 Mar. 2010. .
Faber, Harold. The Discoverers of America. New York, NY: MacMillon Publishing Company, 1992. Print.
Katz, William Loren. “Columbus and the American Holocaust.” Academic Search Premier. EBSCO Publishing, 2003. Web. 24 Mar. 2010. . New York Amsterdam News94.41 (2003): 13
Library of Congress. “Today in History: October 12.” American Memory Home. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2010. .
Loewen, Jame W. Lies my teacher told me. New York, New York: The New Press, 1995. Print.
McDonald, Peter, and Lynn Anderson. “The Columbus Quincentenary: What’s to Celebrate?” Academic Search Premier. EBSCO publishing, 1992. Web. 24 Mar. 2010. . Network News 12.5 (1992): 6
The Order Sons of Italy in America. “Why We Should Celebrate Columbus Day.” Order Sons of Italy in America. Order Sons of Italy in America, 2010. Web. 28 Mar. 2010. .
Random House Webster. Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd edition. New York, NY: Charles M. Levine and Michael Mellin, 2001. Print.
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