Thoughts about how we see history

Christopher Columbus is under assault, 527 years after his discovery of the lands of the Western Hemisphere was made.

It’s no longer acceptable in a politically correct world to offer a holiday to a man who was, in the eyes of some, little more than a money-grubbing, disease-carrying pirate who led to the commandeering of a continent by slave-holding racists who pushed the Native Americans off their land through the policies of manifest destiny, from sea to shining sea with God’s blessing.

Communities across the nation are changing the holiday from “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous People’s Day.”

Seemingly, it is no longer possible to discuss the historic significance of anything without attaching modern-day sensitivities to history. Revising history should not be an answer because the lessons taught from the past are forgotten, and old hatreds are thus doomed to rise again, and again.

Yes, Native Americans were done wrong in so many ways in the conquest of the continent. Yes, slavery should never have been a part of the American economic system nor allowed by the government. And, sadly, all of that happened, for reasons in the context of the time and by the people of the time in which they occurred.

Columbus was, in the context of his time, an exploring mercenary, seeking profit, offering reports about a place that was easy to conquer, filled with riches and unarmed natives to subjugate. It was 527 years ago. There was no U.N. charter. People fought and conquered one another, nation upon nation, vanquishing enemies and taking over territories. When a potentially vast new set of territories opened, yes, it led to conquistadors, brutality and corruption.

It also led to vast and shining cities, a nation that has somehow survived, in spite of itself at times, for 243 years, and the establishment of governments and nations from the tip of Cape Horn to the Arctic Circle.

And yes, Christopher Columbus is credited by history with starting it all. If not him, eventually, someone with the courage to get into tiny, open wooden sailing ships without navigational beacons or radios or radar or a way to get out of a storm, would have come.

A good guy? We’re 527 years away. He did what he set out to do, what he was hired to do.

And the rest is history.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *


Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today