For more than five centuries Americans have lifted Christopher Columbus to heights of greatness and god-like. We celebrate his life as though he was a man that had done us a great favor. In recent years Christopher Columbus has come under scrutiny, his life and works being questioned more than celebrated. There have been many great men and women that contributed to the building of our great nation but they do not receive anywhere as much recognition as Columbus. When a person begins to study the actual accounts of the “finding of the New World” they begin to wonder if Columbus should adored or hated for his actions.
As a child I was taught that Columbus was a great man that had accomplished great things for the sake of humanity, but in reality his agenda was not to better humanity but to better himself. He found the Americas by mere chance and he did not even know of what he found. We give him credit for “finding” the Americas but history tells of the people, that he called Indians, already inhabiting the foreign land.
Columbus is given credit for being a great captain and navigator, but was he as great a navigator as he is believed to be? Columbus is honored to be the founder and father of the Americas even though he went to his own grave believing that he had found a new trade route to Asia. After thirty-three days out from the Azores he could not imagine he was anywhere but near Cathay, the southeast coast of China. His actual location was the Bahamas (William Howarth).
Columbus has a story that some would like to keep quiet, a story that “makes Hitler look like a juvenile delinquent” (quote from a Native American demonstrator [M. E. Marty]). As wagon wheels churned dustily west, Columbus was a heroic, progressive Discoverer. In today’s sullen postcolonial world he is Euro-Plague, spreading the genocide and ecocide that ruined a pristine Eden (William Howarth). Columbus stands accused for much of the tragic and horrible event that plagued the native Americans in the years and even centuries that followed his coming. “[Based] on statistical analyses of Indian deaths, [the Spanish conquest was] the greatest demographic catastrophe in recorded history;” Peter Winn (M.E. Marty). By 1892 the Europeans had prevailed, destroying most of the natives through disease, warfare, and displacement (William Howarth). Serious studies put the eventual extermination of natives by the Europeans at about 90 percent of the population from the beginning of the sixteenth century to the present (P. J. Riga).
There is a balance to the madness that Columbus had created. The most traditional view hails him as the discoverer of America–one who inspired a wave of European explorers and adventurers to the “New World.” In this light, Columbus stand tall as a heroic pioneer and rugged individualist; he symbolizes the essence of intellectual curiosity. Likewise, from this perspective, he correctly laid the basis for proselytizing Christianity to the “heathen” peoples across the Atlantic. From the opposite vantage point, Columbus began a process of genocide greater than any holocaust human history has witnessed. Through the introduction of smallpox, measles, and gonorrhea, Columbus would have as his legacy the elimination of complete indigenous populations and cultures from the face of the earth. And with this irreparable slaughter, some claim, he built the foundation for white racism against all peoples of color (D. N. Hopkins).
Mark Twain once said, “It was a miracle that Columbus found America, but it would have been more the miracle if he had not.” It was truly a remarkable task that Columbus had made a route to the Americas. It can not be disputed that if not for Columbus we probably would not be as economically advanced as we are. But in-as-much, if not for Columbus our country and maybe even our world might not be as racially prejudice. And for fact the people in the Americas would have been able to learn the lessons that the true fore-fathers would have past down. And who knows, maybe we could have learned a lesson or two about love and how to keep peace.
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