Columbus Day: Freshman Sounds Off

I was reminded today that tomorrow is Columbus Day and it made me think about a letter I wrote to the DTH my freshman year. It was in response to some leftist dribble that had been published the previous day. Here is the (unpublished letter):

Yesterday, there was a letter to the editor printed in the DTH that discussed the meaning of Columbus Day. Brooks and Locklear remind readers that “the portrayal of Columbus as a hero is not only naïve but incorrect.” They then assert that Columbus was a murderer of peaceful peoples and conclude that “this day should be used to memorialize the indigenous people who lost their lives because of this invasion.” Though I concede to the point that Columbus’ accomplishments are misunderstood, I must disagree full-heartedly with the editorial.

First of all, not since the 60s have elementary textbooks portrayed Columbus as a hero and the “illustrious discoverer of our country.” As everyone knows, he landed in the Caribbean. The textbooks that I was forced to read spend many pages on the damage that men like Columbus and Cortez inflicted upon local populations.

Secondly, the emphasis on the killings of Native Americans by the first discoverers is misguided. Yes, Columbus killed natives. And men like Cortez came shortly after to kill many more. But the native people were not exactly like they have been portrayed in popular movies like Pocahontas and Dances with Wolves. Tribes warred with one another, pillaged, and did what they could to survive. When Cortez conquered the Aztec’s, it was not one violent group destroying another group of high morals. It was the conquering of a people that believed in human sacrifice by a technologically superior group of people. It had been going on for thousands of years in Europe.

Columbus Day is not about a hero or a murderer. It is a day that commemorates the uniting of the world. It is a day that highlights the beginning of globalization; a turning point in the progress of human kind. If Columbus had not made his famous journey, another man would have at a later time.

Therefore, no one should be irked by these celebrations. And those Leftists that would say that Columbus’ misdeeds are representative of the history of the United States are sorely mistaken. The actions of an Italian explorer do not taint the character of a nation founded two-hundred and fifty years later. This country has a list of its own sins, committed by its citizenry, which have been reckoned with. Let us only consider Columbus Day, a commemoration of a “New World,” not the holiday of a nation or the kindling flame of a grieving people.

This week, someone will undoubtedly sound off in the DTH about how this is a racist holiday and how wonderful it is that the University tries to ignore it. My response to those people has not changed.

6 comments

  1. Oh to be able to live as an Aztec, or a Mayan. Where the victors of tribal war got to eat their captives, rape their wives, and sacrifice their children to their pagan gods. Yes, in this day of moral equivalency and judging history through the lense of modern mores, we should not be celebrating Columbus and Cortez bring Christianity and civilization to the North American continent, but instead be celebrating the wonderful cultures of all those peace loving indigineous peoples.

  2. Oh to be able to live as an Aztec, or a Mayan. Where the victors of tribal war got to eat their captives, rape their wives, and sacrifice their children to their pagan gods. Yes, in this day of moral equivalency and judging history through the lense of modern mores, we should not be celebrating Columbus and Cortez bring Christianity and civilization to the North American continent, but instead be celebrating the wonderful cultures of all those peace loving indigineous peoples.

  3. Did you know that it’s actually more prevalent to have Columbus Day off in the North than here in the South? When I went to elementary school in upstate NY, we always had it off and celebrated both Columbus and then later, during Thanksgiving, the Mayflower pilgrims, every single year. But down here neither is hardly mentioned, and I had even forgotten it was Columbus Day today until someone I know who still lives in the North reminded me.

  4. Dustin, That’s interesting. The years I went to Catholic school (in NC), I had it off too. But not in public school. Why do you think that it is more prevalent in the north?

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