Columbus Day is being celebrated throughout these United States. It is a celebration that embraces ignorance of basic history. It is a celebration that honors the dishonorable, the horrific and the indelible. It is a time when collectively Americans choose to put on blinders and ignore the simple fact that this country, indeed modern “civilization” in the Western Hemisphere is built on the blood soaked soil and bones of the indigenous people along with the shattered remains of their African comrades in pain. Just like the National Football League.
One would think that it would be unnecessary in the second decade of the twenty first century to once again point out that Christopher Columbus didn’t “discover” America. There were millions of indigenous people who had inhabited the so-called New World for thousands of years. There were towns and villages and cities and empires with achievements in astronomy, mathematics and engineering that rivaled and in some cases exceeded the best that Europe had to offer.
Columbus wasn’t even the first European to set foot in the Western Hemisphere. The Vikings beat Columbus to the historical punch establishing settlements in New Foundland almost half a millennium earlier. But Columbus Day has a much greater meaning than the abandoned Viking settlements in what is now Canada.
But Christopher Columbus brought with him greed, avarice and an implacable hunger for gold and riches which, with the blessings of the Catholic Church, opened an era of rape, genocide and treachery which resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of indigenous people throughout the hemisphere. Taking the concept of white supremacy to its most awful extreme, Christopher Columbus and the Europeans who followed him, felt justified in killing men, women and children without remorse. They considered the right to enslave others to be part of their white Christian birthright and they established societies which, to this day, carry the virus of blind sanctioned racism. And we know all too well, that this virus manifests itself in daily society.
The question becomes, knowing these rather obvious facts, why does anyone choose to celebrate the legacy of a murderer who was the harbinger of genocide and the first to seize the opportunity to destroy, demolish and obliterate societies and civilizations? It must be that it is more comfortable for too many to celebrate undeniable falsehoods than come to grips with the uncomfortable truth.
Which brings to mind the National Football League which still abides by the Washington team being called the “Redskins”, an odious term that was never acceptable, and is more horrific in its usage the more that history has been revealed to us. Nevertheless, the NFL and CBS and NBC and other sports news outlets refer to “Redskins” even though it is impossible to consider sports teams like the “New York Niggers” or the “Boston Kikes” or the “Chicago Wops” being acceptable. Referring to the indigenous people as mascots is akin to building a communal toilet on what remains of their tradition and history.
There is no calculus which could reduce the concept of “reparations” to dollars and cents. But it would be helpful to stop celebrating lies and continuing horrific myths while the ghosts of the dead continue to seek recognition, if not redress.