Christopher Columbus: everything we now properly despise

First: Christopher Columbus didn’t ‘discover’ America. He discovered the Caribbean islands, and they were already inhabited. Second: He didn’t set foot in the United States of America. The first explorer to do that, if memory serves, was Ponce De Leon who got as far as Florida. Third: He was your basic colonial monster.

We shrugged off, repelled — killed — our colonial oppressors because their ways were so antithetical to freedom and Americanism that we would sacrifice our lives to expel them forever from our shores. But Columbus? Let’s have a holiday and take time to remember and celebrate him:

Christopher Columbus: Hero
by Daniel J. Flynn | 10/11/2010

Upon returning to Spain, Christopher Columbus wrote of his discovery that “Christendom ought to feel delight and make feasts and give solemn thanks to the Holy Trinity.” Until fairly recently, all of Christendom agreed. Just as much of Christendom now recoils at the term “Christendom,” the “delight” and “thanks” for Columbus’ historic voyage hardly remains universal . .

But fixation upon his sins obscures his accomplishment: Columbus discovered the New World. Any assessment of the admiral that doesn’t lead with this fact misses the forest for the trees. Enslavement and cultural conquest are common. Discovering two continents is unprecedented. Other than Christ, it is difficult to name a person who has changed the world as dramatically as Columbus has.

That’s a shocking white-washing of ‘enslavement.’ In a war, rapes are common, so let’s not get dragged down into details, shall we?

Incidentally, Christ’s historical impact comes as a result of his example and his philosophy. What were Columbus’ example and philosophy, exactly? Time for Thom Hartmann’s yearly reminder of the exploits of Christopher Columbus:

When Columbus and his crew arrived on their second visit to Hispaniola, however, they took captive about two thousand local villagers who had come out to greet them . .

[Diarist] Cuneo further notes that he himself took a beautiful teenage Carib girl as his personal slave, a gift from Columbus himself, but that when he attempted to have sex with her, she “resisted with all her strength.” So, in his own words, he “thrashed her mercilessly and raped her” . . .

Columbus and his men also used the Taino as sex slaves: it was a common reward for Columbus’ men for him to present them with local women to rape. As he began exporting Taino as slaves to other parts of the world, the sex-slave trade became an important part of the business, as Columbus wrote to a friend in 1500: “A hundred castellanoes (a Spanish coin) are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten (years old) are now in demand” . .

Eventually, life for the Taino became so unbearable that, as Pedro de Cordoba wrote to King Ferdinand in a 1517 letter, “As a result of the sufferings and hard labor they endured, the Indians choose and have chosen suicide. Occasionally a hundred have committed mass suicide. The women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth… Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery.”

It only took 60 years for Columbus’ genocidal intervention, for the imprint of his ‘philosophy,’ to extinguish the Taino from Hispaniola. So much for civilized, peace-loving ways — those quaint Indian ideals can’t compete with the bloodthirsty European Christians. But then that’s exactly the thing that Christianist Conservatives love:

All of history points to some kind of eventual conquest. Isn’t it worth celebrating that the pope’s mariner, rather than, say, the henchmen of sultans or khans, discovered the Americas? . .

Couldn’t he be more plausibly viewed as the catalyst for ensuing greatness?

Hartmann’s same writing sheds light on this:

Dr. Jack Forbes, Professor of Native American Studies at the University of California at Davis and author of the brilliant book “Columbus and Other Cannibals,” uses the Native American word wétiko (pronounced WET-ee-ko) to describe the collection of beliefs that would produce behavior like that of Columbus. Wétiko literally means “cannibal,” and Forbes uses it quite intentionally to describe these standards of culture: we “eat” (consume) other humans by destroying them, destroying their lands, taking their natural resources, and consuming their life-force by enslaving them either physically or economically. The story of Columbus and the Taino is just one example.

We live in a culture that includes the principle that if somebody else has something we need, and they won’t give it to us, and we have the means to kill them to get it, it’s not unreasonable to go get it, using whatever force we need to.

It was only today I came across this very truth in a post by Tintin at Sadly, No! who mocked wingnut Moe Lane’s cheering of Columbus:

The killing off of Native Americans was a small price to pay so that I could still have most of my teeth at age forty!

Moe, doing a fair Jame Gumb:

It will read up on ‘virgin field epidemic’ and understand the concept before it may converse with me again.

The Moe had searched the Wikipedia and discovered “Virgin Field Epidemic,” and then it had felt disastrously superior. That would not last:

Indian Removal Act of 1830. Sealed the fate of the Indians in the Southeast, resulting in the Trail of Tears.

The Supreme Court did worse: Johnson v. M’Intosh. Indians who pretended to own land could only sell it back to the U.S. Government. Wait — nevermind — Indians do not own any land at all. They have a few tenancy rights, but that’s it.

People who had been here for thousands of years, living on, improving on, farming on, building on, birthing on and burying their loved ones in the land had absolutely no claim to their businesses, cemeteries or homes. Why? Christopher Columbus. Period. Yes, that’s the sum total of the legal reasoning, read it for yourself.


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