Today, the observed date of Columbus Day (the second Monday in October) actually coincides with the real Columbus Day, the anniversary of the day Columbus’s mini-fleet touched down in the Bahamas. Depending on your point of view, this is either a day to celebrate or mourn.
Brown University changed their academic calender to call the past three days “Fall Weekend” – apparently choosing not to honor an explorer who charted a new path to a new world, but keeping a three-day weekend. Other voices credit the landing of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria as the root cause of centuries of cultural clashes between natives and explorers.
The anti-Columbus sentiment has been building for decades, and has marginalized the discovery of the new world – not just in reduced participation in the holiday, but in elementary school classrooms as well.
There can be no doubt that native inhabitants of the Americas were mistreated, and it’s a black mark on Western civilization. Blaming Columbus, though, is like blaming Henry Ford for every car accident. Blame would better rest with someone who actually committed acts against American Indian tribes, acts such as the forcible removal of tribes from their lands to reservations, announced so benevolently by President Andrew Jackson:
And is it supposed that the wandering savage has a stronger attachment to his home than the settled, civilized Christian? Is it more afflicting to him to leave the graves of his fathers than it is to our brothers and children? Rightly considered, the policy of the General Government toward the red man is not only liberal, but generous.
Not only does Jackson get a free pass on his role in the Trail of Tears, we honor him on the $20 bill – not to mention yearly tributes to him (and a guy who kept slaves) from local Democrat parties.
Christopher Columbus himself was no saint, despite the bravery and skill he exhibited in opening up passage to the New World. Even Columbus’s celebrants freely admit his flaws. But it isn’t much of a stretch to have a federal holiday to honor the positive achievements of a flawed individual – in fact, there’s one every January. Just as overlooking Columbus’s flaws would lead to an incomplete view of history, so too would overlooking his achievements.
Happy Columbus Day.