The need to celebrate Columbus Day seems to hinge somewhat precariously on your (emotional/physical/spiritual) proximity to Italian-American culture. Not surprisingly, San Francisco has the oldest Columbus Day celebration and New York City has the biggest. Once I read what he actually did -- from his own journals, no less! -- I had no more of an urge to celebrate Columbus' life or "accomplishments" than Adolph Hitler.
If you think that Columbus deserves a holiday, then so does Stalin. So does Atilla the Hun. Can you imagine? A parade and a paid day off to celebrate Hitler?
Here's some must read stuff.
- 7 Myths and Atrocities of Christopher Columbus That Will Make You Cringe
Here's the one that freaked me out: After several voyages and raping and pillaging, Columbus and his men grew increasingly depraved. When he was replaced as governor of Hispaniola and recalled back to Spain in 1500, he wrote in a casual tone of how he provided sex slaves to his men, some of whom were small children as young as 9, for a high price. Death and Taxes called Columbus “the pimp of the New World.”
- How badly did Christopher Columbus mistreat the indigenous people he encountered in The New World?
Here's yet another great reason why Columbus shouldn't be celebrated: Widespread rapes of both women and girls.
Spanish accounts describe how they preferred raping the 10 year olds because they were "tighter."
Women and girls to rape were handed out as rewards to soldiers for a job well done. Columbus also ordered the rape of females in front of family members, daughters in front of the father for example, to break resistance and spread trauma.
Columbus in his own accounts described how he personally raped a "cannibal girl." In his accounts, he convinced himself the girl enjoyed being raped.
- You Are Still Being Lied To: Howard Zinn's "Columbus and Western Civilization"
Here's an exerpt: In the standard accounts of Columbus what is emphasized again and again is his religious feeling, his desire to convert the natives to Christianity, his reverence for the Bible. Yes, he was concerned about God. But more about Gold. Just one additional letter. His was a limited alphabet. Yes, all over the island of Hispaniola, where he, his brothers, his men, spent most of their time, he erected crosses. But also, all over the island, they built gallows—340 of them by the year 1500. Crosses and gallows—that deadly historic juxtaposition.
Here's the good news: there are 16 states and counting!) that don't celebrate Columbus Day unofficially. The states Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Vermont and South Dakota do not celebrate it at all. Iowa and Nebraska proclaim the day but don't celebrate it as an official holiday (paid day off, post office closed).
Eventually, this holiday will be phased out, state by state -- and just as it took years to create a national holiday for Martin Luther King Jr, it will be way too easy to look back and see who will remain forever on on the wrong side of history.