Let’s go back to 1998. I’m about five years old. It’s October and I’m excited for Halloween and still trying to accept that apparently the whole school thing is a 12-year sentence and I have to go every day. I digress and I remember it clearly. Getting a break from practicing handwriting and counting to watch a movie. A cartoon to be exact about none other than Christopher Columbus, the brave explorer with the three boats, who discovered America, and was for whatever reason not welcomed with open arms by violent and awful “Indians” upon his arrival. In this delightfully whitewashed and dishonest cartoon--complete with songs--my five-year-old self-learned the story of why we celebrated Columbus day. For the fun-sized version of myself this all meant very little aside from a craft project that included a poorly constructed paper boat and a long weekend.
Now let’s fast forward about eight years. I’m 13, it’s the summer, and I’m flipping through a history book of sorts given to me by a friend of my mother. And I stumble upon an essay called The Truth About Christopher Columbus. It blew my 13-year-old mind and my 13-year-old mind was pretty darn ticked. The man was a rapist, enslaved people, and he apparently didn’t even really discover America. On his first voyage he ended up in Cuba, and a few other places on his second and third tries, but he managed to inflict some pain on the people who lived there.
At 13 I'd accepted that adults lied about things like Santa and the Tooth Fairy, but how could they lie about history? About such cruelty and injustice? If the man had been born a few centuries later he could be featured on an episode of Criminal Minds. But what does he get instead? A freaking holiday, parades, and all over the country kids are told the story of what a great guy he was. Why did someone who did things that aligned him with the likes Charles Manson get a holiday when people who did amazing things were not given such an honor?
In case your history book neglected to mention this, here are a few of our buddy Chris’ crimes:
- Despite the natives kindness and hospitality and life-saving, he freaking enslaved them and described them as cannibalistic savages (way to say thanks, dude).
- He massacred 250,000 natives for gold (seriously what a jerk).
- It apparently wasn’t enough for this guy to be a rapist himself, and allow his sailors to go around violating people (although you could say they did get some karmic justice in a pretty wicked case of scurvy), nope he had to top it off by selling CHILDREN into sex slavery!
- He legitimately fed the natives to dogs! And he had the nerve to call them evil and “devilish”!
- He and his men gifted the New World with Syphilis (If I introduce an STD to a new country, can I have a holiday?).
This man does not deserve a holiday. He was a terrorist.
Now at some point Columbus was shipped back to Spain in shame as a prisoner for his many crimes, but was pardoned because his boy King Ferdinand funded another voyage. What the hell, Ferdinand? Was this the beginning of Bro Code? Who can say, but on this fourth voyage he made it to Central America where he set the precedent for European imperialist pillaging, rape, and all around evil. Plus there’s that whole Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade thing. So yeah Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and terrorized unsuspecting people.
How are we ever going to move forward as a country if we keep passing off lies and whitewashing history; if we keep trying to Photoshop the ugly parts of the past out instead of dealing honestly with them? I think not celebrating a genocidal rapist would be a fantastic start. We could learn from Seattle and celebrate Indigenous People’s Day instead. Or show some much-needed respect to other historical figures. ANY OTHER HISTORICAL FIGURE. Like seriously. I don’t have much of a big finish after that so I will point you in the direction of this lovely John Oliver's video that further describes what a douche monkey Christopher Columbus was: