Tomorrow our nation celebrates Columbus Day. For those of us of Italian heritage this is particularly significant as he was an Italian who sought to find a new route to Asia by sailing west thus proving that the world was round. He instead founded an entirely new land which he claimed for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain who had financed his expedition. When he landed on a variety of islands including those of the Bahamas, Cuba, and what is the island hosting present day Haiti and Dominican Republic, he met what he called their “Inhabitants.” He described them not by color but by demeanor and bodily capabilities which he noted were not unlike those who came with him. He noted that they did not have arms and were fearful of them and that they were liberal in their acceptance of them once their fears were calmed. he thought they would become Christians and come to love the King of Spain and “all its people.”
As radical leftists seek to rewrite our history and destroy all references to it in monuments erected, let us recall some simple reasons why we honor such people. First of all, we must remember that Columbus was a 15th century person. Judging people of that day through 21st century eyes and reason is hardly fair or appropriate. Showing how people have evolved to better understand people of various cultures and native heritage is most appropriate to be sure. Prejudicing students against valiant explorers, patriots and so forth serve little to help them understand how humanity is constantly evolving to be more accepting, open and tolerant. This unfortunately is not happening as I can point out that my own grandson is being told in class how awful a man Columbus was. This brings me to the second point. Columbus was not a bad man. He was a man of strong faith and conviction. He thought converting native inhabitants and bringing them to love his King was his duty. He traded with the populations he found, true but with the hope of bringing them to accept his people coming to their land. He even was placed into prison back in Spain after later voyages because of his more humane treatment of the inhabitants and lack of political skills to combat others of his people who would abuse and take advantage of a more primitive people. Columbus in his own writings depict native inhabitants as honest and liberal in their sharing with his people. Certainly he made mistakes, show me a leader who has not. And that brings me to my final point. We humans are not perfect then or in our own time, though some would have students believe that a certain point of view is perfect. Columbus was not perfect in the 21st century sense or 15th century reality. But he was courageous, he tried to bring what he deemed a superior civilization to the lands he found with as much honesty as was possible in his time. He wanted to bring wealth to his King and nation of Spain, that is true. But he did so not out of hate for the people he found but out of duty to repay his monarchs who supported his voyages despite ridicule of very powerful people of his day. We honor him for finding a new land not for what resulted from that discovery. We erected statues to his memory not because he was perfect in his administration of those new lands and handling of its native peoples but because he proved to the world of his day that his premise of the earth being round, that a new land existed between Europe and the East existed and that the science of his day was in error. And one more thing; he had a deep faith in God and his Church. Today people of faith are mocked and ridiculed for certain beliefs. which I as a Christian may not hold valid (i.e. disrespecting people because of their faith, sexual orientation, view of the world) but I respect religious convictions and moral values which uphold life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And so I think would Columbus were he allowed to freely express his personal views honestly without Viceroys and governments judging his every motive. This I state as a history teacher of many decades and one who professes that we learn from our mistakes made since the founding of civilization on the banks of the Tigris River and far off lands in what is now Asia.
You may not agree with how Columbus viewed the world he discovered or certainly how he governed it. Certainly I do not approve nor support any view of how the native peoples were eventually treated by the newcomers to the New World. But that is not why I march in a Columbus day parade. I do so out of pride for an ancestral countryman of an ancient people who believed in a loving God and used the science of his day to prove to the known world that his view of the earth was correct and in doing so gave the people of the western world the opportunity to settle in a new world to them. It is our duty now to work within our belief systems to right the wrongs of centuries past and make sure that no people are mistreated because they are different, not as developed as we in prosperous and technologically advanced lands, or not as sophisticated in their understanding of a divine being as we view God to be.
Happy Columbus Day.