By: Phil | 10-09-2017 | News
Photo credit: Ruslan Huzau | Dreamstime

In Defense of Columbus and Columbus Day

It's Columbus Day, or Genocide Day or Indigenous People's Day depending on your personal opinion considering the changing opinions regarding many influential figures in our Western past. Though Indigenous people feel that Columbus kicked off a virtual genocide of millions, some Italians and Italian-Americans, including a descendant of Columbus himself are fairly indignant at the suggestion that all blame should lie on Cristobal. Columbus XX kicks off his Op-Ed at USA Today today by explaining his credentials. He is, it turns out, a descendant of <i>both</i> Christopher Columbus and Montezuma II, the Aztec emperor.

<a href="">Columbus' descendant</a> blames the disconnect on a lack of "any sense of history or of nuance." This is an important case not just in historical matters but in anything that relates to socio-cultural and/or ethnic/racial or gender differences issues. A lack of nuance combined with echo-chamber dialectic and us v. them lines being drawn is the worst thing possible for open and productive discussion. Columbus and Montezuma's kin gives us an apologia for his distant ancestor from 1492. Faith, he explains, was his primary motivation and he was a "moderating factor on his men." As for the West being the sole bearer of savagery in the New World, he reminds us that slavery, cannibalism and human sacrifice were not out of the ordinary in the New World before Columbus. Another point made is that a good deal of deaths were related to differences in immunity, not necessarily the same thing as an intentional genocide. More so like the end of the unlikely end of the Martians in H.G. Wells' <i>War of the Worlds</i>.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">&quot;You’re going to pick up 18 people and tell us what our New York values are?” <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; New York Post (@nypost) <a href="">October 9, 2017</a></blockquote>

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<blockquote>Blaming Columbus does his legacy a terrible injustice, but it does something else, too. It focuses anger on one man and on the wrong man.

The tactic of those who hate Columbus are resurrecting Anglo-supremacist propaganda that paints all who sailed under the Spanish flag — or were Hispanic — as violent and untrustworthy. They hated not just Catholics in general but Columbus in particular because he was the Catholic hero in U.S. history. In English-speaking countries, British explorers tend to be treated far better than Spanish ones.

Today, Americans learn little to nothing of English atrocities in America, while Columbus — who sailed under Spain’s flag and never actually set foot on the territory of the United States — is blamed for every mistake any Spaniard or Portuguese explorer or colonist ever made — and any that the British or Americans made as well.

Few schoolchildren in this country will ever learn that Spain’s kings quickly gave Spanish citizenship to Native Americans and began restricting enslavement of Native Americans, after a theological debate. Spain began a moral revolution when slavery was accepted by the rest of the European countries. Meanwhile, Spain built universities to educate the Indians and churches to minister to their spiritual needs.

Few in school today will learn that the Spanish worked to integrate with Native Americans, while the British and the Americans tended to have much more combative relationships with them and often forced them onto small reservations. Spain never founded any reservation.

Many scholars have noted that Spain’s laws and actions regarding Native Americans were superior to those of the British and often even the Americans.</blockquote>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">People shouldn&#39;t spread lies &amp; blame Columbus for evils he didn&#39;t do. Read history. <a href=""></a> <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ColumbusDay</a> <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ColumbusDayParade</a></p>&mdash; Stefano Leonardi (@LeonardiStefano) <a href="">October 9, 2017</a></blockquote>

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Demonizing Columbus, Christians/Catholics and the Spaniards and Italians is highlighted by Columbus while he notes that the Indigenous right to recognition is not wholly exclusive from appreciating the accomplishments of Columbus. Again, words of wisdom as the 15th century explorer's descendant reminds us how an "all-or-nothing view of history polarizes everything."

<quote>The same people who tout the myth of the evil Columbus would have us believe that Native American culture was as good as Spanish was evil. This binary approach warps reality. Neither culture was perfect. And neither should be totally condemned.</quote>

The Spaniards were amazed at the Aztec architectural prowess but were equally awed at their propensity for bloodlust related to human sacrifice. Halos and devil horns, the "black hats versus white hats" modality is simple, but these time-saving schemas end up holding us back from fully appreciating and understanding deeper machinations and the complex dynamics of situations like the colonization of the New World.

Christopher Columbus XX is the present Duke of Veragua, and a biographer of his ancestor the explorer.

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