A politically correct view of Columbus Day

Diane Douglas Willard, right, demonstrates with her daughter, Gianna Willard, both Haida tribal members from Ketchikan, Alaska, during a Native American protest against Columbus Day, Monday, Oct. 10, 2011, in Seattle. Protest organizers say that Columbus could not have “discovered” a western hemisphere already inhabited by about 100 million people. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)


As we all learned in school, in 1492, Christopher Columbus stepped off a frail, water-sodden, scurvy-ridden vessel onto a Bahamian island (which island isn't known) and discovered political correctness.

At least, he should have. Instead, he merely opened up a new hemisphere for exploration. It's up to us Moderns to do the politically correct thing and denounce Columbus as an opportunist who infected the New World with racism, slavery, exploitation and greed.

While Columbus Day remains a federal holiday, some cities are changing the designation to reflect a more progressive understanding of history. The city of Berkeley was, of course, one of the first. In 1992, it changed Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

"The city's declaration underscored a revisionist notion that Columbus was no hero but instead a self-serving colonialist whose arrival in the New World led to the death of millions of American Indians," The New York Times reported at that time. "The declaration has been recognized by the school board, which plans to modify Columbus' image in history classes and textbooks."

In more recent years, the movement has been advanced by none other than controversial activist and fired University of Colorado at Boulder professor Ward Churchill.

Churchill calls for the abolition of Columbus Day celebrations.

"The sentiments expressed by the participants are, quite frankly, that the fate of Native America embodied in Columbus and the Columbian legacy is a matter to be openly and enthusiastically applauded as an unrivaled boon to all mankind," he wrote. "Undeniably, the situation of American Indians will not - in fact cannot - change for the better so long as such attitudes are deemed socially acceptable by the mainstream populace. Hence, such celebrations as Columbus Day must be stopped."

One of the first to expound this view was author Samuel Eliot Morrison, who wrote in 1941 that Columbus "began the depopulation of the terrestrial paradise that was Hispaniola in 1492."

Others, particularly Americans of Italian descent, disagree. They see the day as a celebration of the courage of exploration and the immigrant spirit.

The truth, of course, is that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Christopher Columbus was a mere mortal, yet another example of fallen humanity. His story encompasses both the heights and the depths of human existence.

Those who single Columbus out for bringing sin into an earthly paradise are ignoring the fact that human nature is the same, wherever you go. There simply are no paradises, at least not here on earth.

Certainly, history shows Europeans enslaved Native Americans. Yet slavery existed in the Americas long before Columbus arrived. The Spanish made war on native populations. Yet wars took place in the New World, between Native peoples, before Europeans were ever on the scene.

The truth is Columbus opened up a new land that eventually would serve as the seedbed of a new understanding of humanity - that all men are created equal.

And that's worth celebrating, though it is no longer politically correct to do so.



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