Reflecting on a Murderer this Columbus Day….

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While enjoying my Columbus Day holiday off from work (I’ll take days off anyway I can get them), I wondered why this day is celebrated at all. I mean lets face it, Columbus was nothing more than a slave trader and a murderer by most historic accounts. We don’t celebrate Jeffrey Dahmer Day or Charles Manson Day – so why this guy? He was just as evil as them and maybe more.

When you consider his voyages and exploits, it’s not very difficult to conclude that Columbus was never respectful of the rights of the natives he encountered. His first sight of what he termed “Indians” was of a group of unclothed people. To him their lack of clothing represented a lack of culture, customs, and religion (how do you explain Brittany Spears then? She’s fully clothed…most of the time). Columbus saw this as an opportunity to spread the word of Christianity. He believed that the Indians would be easy to conquer because they appeared defenseless, easy to trick because they lacked experience in trade, and an easy source of profit because they could be enslaved. From the beginning, Columbus never considered these people in any terms other than master and slave.

Columbus’s own letters reflect the arrogance he possessed in claiming the islands he found. In a letter describing his findings to his friend Luis de Santangel, he wrote, “And there I found very many islands filled with people innumerable, and of them all I have taken possession for their Highnesses.…” He simply took over the lands he discovered and exploited what he found. To prove his great discovery, he returned to Spain with many unique things, including kidnapped Indians. Of course during the first voyage, he was only getting warmed up…

Columbus’s true evil began on his second voyage.

Ferdinand and Isabella had ordered that the natives be treated kindly. In opposition to this order, Columbus began exporting slaves in great numbers in 1494. he pursued this trade because he was not making any real profit elsewhere on the island, therefore he decided to exploit the one source of income he had in abundance…people. Thousands of Indians were exported and usually a third died by the time they reached Spain. Bartolome de las Casas wrote that one Spaniard had told him they did not need a compass to find their way back to Spain; they could simply follow the bodies of floating Indians who had been tossed overboard when they died. The Indians that were not exported were put into slavery on the island. There was literally no way to escape some form of enslavement. Columbus would let the settlers of his establishment choose whomever they wanted for their own slave. 

Enslavement of the Indians was not the only violation they were forced to endure; Columbus also terrorized, tortured, and murdered them. One time, Columbus sent five hundred men into the hills to search for gold. Upon hearing that the Indians were planning to attack the men, Columbus sent four hundred soldiers to terrorize them in order to show how strong the Christians were. One of the Spaniards went through the hills, terrorizing the Indians and stealing their food. Columbus punished the Indian victims instead of the Christian culprit. These activities, and others like it, soon led to an all out war between the settlers and the natives. Due to their inferior weaponry, thousands of Indians were wiped out while those that were not were captured and tortured. 

Other atrocities committed by Columbus and his men were reported by Michele de Cuneo, one of the Spaniards with whom he was traveling. One account tells of how they came upon a canoe and Indians and they attacked them. They thought they had killed one of the Indians and threw him into the water. Upon seeing him begin to swim, they caught him and cut his head with an axe. He also gives a highly detailed account of his rape of an Indian woman; an act committed with Columbus’s blessing. 

Under the guise of subduing the enemy, they would engage in horrific activities. At times, they would make an example of an Indian by cutting his hands off and tying them around his neck, telling him to then go and share the message. Other times they would go and massacre an entire village. These are the types of inhumane activities undertaken by the men that Columbus led. This type of treatment continued a pattern seen throughout history. The degradation and belief of superiority can be seen in the way the American Indians were later treated. It can also be seen in the way the Africans were treated. Columbus certainly set a precedent, although not one to be celebrated with a holiday – at least not in my opinion. 

Christopher Columbus was in no way a hero. All he did was encounter unknown lands in route to Asia. In fact, he never managed to complete his initial goal of finding a commercially viable route to Asia. His only recorded accomplishment that affected human kind was the destruction of an entire population. How in any way, is that heroic?  

I say end Columbus Day and replace it with a day worthy of national recognition that would help Americans take pride in their culture and nation…National Election Day.

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Posted on October 8, 2007, in Human Rights, Law, Politics, Social Policy and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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