Jeff Smith 6 p.m., Feb. 27
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Columbus--The Man, The Myth...The Mercenary!
"Iron will, Iron fist! How can it have come to this?" --Iron Maiden, from "The Mercenary" on BRAVE NEW WORLD.
Today is the day known as Columbus Day (or Colombian Day, according to the stoner crowd at Lemoore High School). The myth is that Columbus was trying to prove the Earth was round, and it was he who discovered The Americas.
Both myths are a rancid load of Bravo Sierra, if you get my drift. First off the bat, even before Columbus' time, many navigators knew that the world was not flat...they just did not know that by sailing westward, you ran into a continent--unexplored at that--before you were able to hit the riches of Asia.
Second, remnants of settlments in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia contained artifacts from Viking explorers, long before the voyages of Columbus started. Plus, there were indegineous tribes living on both the North and South American continents, so the land already had inhabitants.
However, Columbus did discover the Caribbean Islands, and claimed them for the sponsors of his voyage--the Spanish Throne of Fredinand and Isabella. The members of the Taiho tribe, however, were soon either claimed by Death (smallpox was the main killer), or as slaves to be brought back to Spain.
In this, Columbus began the ethos of the European explorers when it came to dealing the new lands they ran into: "Conquer, Christianize, Civilize...then work the natives for everything they could produce, including thmselves." Any native who did not "get with the program," as it were, faced getting chopped down by arquebus fire or a lance thrust.
Like all who came later to the New World, Columbus took far more than he gave..and what he gave the Tahio tribe was disease, death, and misery. He gave his sponsors what belonged to the Tahio--including enslaved Tahio members.
However, at best, Columbus was a mercenary...a Genoan in the employ of the Spanish Crown, taking Spanish treasure and commanding Spanish seamen in a quest for a westward passage to the Spice Islands and the Orient. The profits of his journeys were to--supposedly--finance yet another Great Crusade to retake Jerusalem and the Holy Lands. They went into the Royal Spanish Treasury, instead.
So, knowing this, should we celebrate Columbus the man, or Columbus the myth? Certainly, he was a total dillweed when it came to the natives he encountered (more than Tahio tribe members were sent back to Spain and Europe to serve their white masters). In fact, he was an outright slave-trader--the first of his breed.
It was not until one hundred years later that the Spanish crown put an end to this most pernicious aspect of Columbus' legacy, outlawing trade in Carribean-born slaves. However, the actions of Christopher Columbus set the tone for how the Spanish, Potuguese, and English (plus the Dutch later on) conducted their explorations of "The New World."
Certainly, Columbus was no saint (to those tribes he encountered, they eventually regarded him as Lucifer incarnate). However, he was among the first to reach the New World...armed with disease, advanced weaponry, The Holy Bible...and a big Spanish flag, planted like a realtor's sign to advertise that this was now Spanish land.
So, now the question must be asked... "Knowing what we do, is it proper to still celebrate today as Columbus Day?"
That is for you to decide for yourself. Me, today is just another day that God has granted me of life.
More like this:
- Coachella Valley by jeep — Oct. 18, 2013
- Walking In Jefferson's Footsteps — May 7, 2011
- Was Obama’s Kenyan grandfather involved in the slave trade? — April 23, 2008
- Horse: How the Horse Has Shaped Civilization — May 18, 2006
- Mexican Landscapes in San Diego — May 25, 2000