This past Monday was Columbus Day, a holiday celebrated by the United States of America in celebration of the famous sailor bumping into some land on October 12, 1492.
It’s odd that it became a US holiday, because the explorer never reached the shores of what would later become the United States.
If you look back at why we celebrate Columbus Day in our country, you have to go back to 1892, the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ landing. Actually you have to go ba a year earlier, to March 14th, 1891, when eleven Italians were lynched in New Orleans.
Columbus Day was proposed by President Benjamin Harrison as a way to celebrate Italian heritage, after relations with Italy had become very strained after the lynchings.
Now it is true that Columbus was an evangelist, if you define an evangelist as someone who goes around pushing their religious beliefs on people who grew up with different religious beliefs.
In the case of Columbus, he thought everyone should be a Catholic, a view the church down the street probably shares, but probably not the flock at St. Mark’s. Odd that the pastor of a church that violently broke off from the Catholics would think so much of Columbus.
I suspect though that the reason for posting this week’s sign comes not from a love of Columbus, but rather from the same motive that drives most of the postings: “This will surely piss off the libs.”
The religious right is fervently clinging to the falsities that most of us were taught in school (until very recently).
Topics such as slavery and genocide were unpleasant, and best left out of the curriculum. They want to return to those guilt free days.
The religious right decry that their whitewashed views of America are being stripped away, and call such attempts to be revisionist.
But the initial exaltation of Columbus was revisionist in nature to start with. Heck, we don’t even call him by his actual name, Christopherous.
We don’t teach that Columbus was married but had a second child with his mistress.
We don’t teach that he captured and sold slaves and used slave labor to mine his riches. One can even argue he was not an evangelist because he did not want his slaves to become Christians because then they could not be held as slaves. Apperently, he valued his free labor more than his worker’s souls.
We also don’t teach that he was a brutal man, cutting off the hands of children when they couldn’t pay their taxes. He was so brutal in fact that he was arrested and relieved of his governorship.
Whether Columbus can be accurately accused of genocide is up for debate. But if you want to talk about the great replacement theory, well you better start with the captain of the Santa Maria.
It wasn’t until 300 years after his navigational mistake made news that Columbus’ reputation began to be overhauled. Suddenly he was a hero because he discovered America, despite the fact that there were already people living here who apparently “discovered’ it long before some bible believers even think the earth existed.
They believe he discovered America, even though it’s been proven the Vikings made the voyage long before he did.
It was only luck that Columbus even found land, because he was a terrible sailor, greatly underestimating even the circumference of our planet, when others had come much closer to what we now know is the correct value.
So the recent changes in how we view Columbus aren’t revisionary, they’re anti-revisionary. What most people think of Columbus is a myth, much like Jesus himself.
Columbus was anything but a loving evangelist. He was a capitalist who used his superior firepower to enslave a population and he worked them to death digging up gold for him, and the Spanish monarchy.
Nothing romantic or spiritual about that at all.