Columbus deserves to be honored

I honor Christopher Columbus. I believe Professor Deen Chatterjee’s recent column condemning Columbus flies in the face of historical accuracy and morality.

Here are two important reasons why we should honor Columbus.

The first is that he opened the door between the New World and the Old.

He was lost and he was not the first explorer to find America. He wasn’t even the first European. But he was the first to colonize it.

Colonization has bad repercussions. Genocide and slavery did occur. The American Indians have been suffering ever since.

But the opening of the door between Europe and the Americas had other repercussions. New republics were formed. The genocide of the American Indians is tragic, but I’m grateful for my country.

Was it a fair trade? I don’t know. But I won’t stand idly by if anyone tries to argue the existence of this republic hasn’t been a blessing to mankind.

Canada, Mexico and Brazil’s respective citizens also have Columbus to thank for their republics. The nation of Colombia and our founding fathers understood this.

The opening of the door allowed an exchange of cultures. Anyone who enjoys corn and potatoes can thank Columbus. Do American Indians resent the horses, cattle and oxen introduced by Europeans?

Any American Indian who believes Jesus Christ is God has Columbus to thank.

But what about the introduction of smallpox? American Indian venereal diseases are still ravaging the world.

What about the genocide and slavery? American Indian cultures in North and South America were doing that to each other centuries before Columbus arrived. Maybe not the peaceful Taino people, but many others were.

Europeans were more organized and effective at it, but they did not introduce it.

Very few people learn about that side of America’s indigenous cultures. They also don’t hear about the ritualized orgies that were part of many American Indian religions.

Why isn’t that discussed while we eat fry bread and buy American Indian pots and blankets this week? Because in their culture it was acceptable behavior, and they don’t do it anymore. We don’t judge cultures of the past by modern standards of morality.

Oh, whoops! That’s a little hypocritical. We’ve been pissing on Columbus’ grave every October, saying the fact his religion and society condoned his behavior is no excuse.

Can we have it both ways?

The second reason I honor Columbus is for his character.

Every October, someone argues we shouldn’t honor Columbus because if he hadn’t discovered America for the Europeans, someone else would have.

Ignoring the fact that if we refuse to give him credit for that reason, we should also refuse to blame the genocide on him. Let me relate an anecdote.

During his own lifetime, people downplayed Columbus’ achievement. Once at a dinner, he was asked why his voyage was so special. He asked his heckler to stand a hard-boiled egg on its head. Naturally, he couldn’t. Columbus then smashed the egg down on the table, flattening one end. He then invited everyone in the room to stand the egg up. Now it was easy.

If anyone could have done it and Columbus was a bumbling fool, why hadn’t anyone done it before?

Columbus’ journals reveal that he was obsessed with sailing westward because he felt God had told him to. He defied tradition and logic to obey his God. That’s honorable. His courage in doing so is honorable.

Personally, I observe a day of shame every time tragedies of the human experience like genocide and slavery are used as ammunition in childish liberal vs. conservative rants.

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