I write a post like this every year, but whatever. Columbus Day frustrates me.
As the picture of Columbus’ actions has become clearer over the years, I can’t understand why we still celebrate his legacy. We know he did not discover America (as if something that’s already inhabited can be ‘discovered’ anyway) and his tyranny against the indigenous people he encountered is widely documented and substantiated by his own journals and those of his men. He was a slaver, torturer, murderer, despot, and frankly, a failure. (He was aiming for, and thought he’d found, Asia.) And, on top of all that, when he returned to Europe, he did so in chains, because he also failed as a governor.
How great can a man be if we know, from his own hand, that he met a curious and friendly people his first thought was how easy it would be to subjugate them, and what he stood to gain from exploiting them?
Columbus’ legacy is his example of the locust-like devastation that would come to characterize European colonization, expansion, and war in the New World, and it’s an insult to ourselves and our intelligence that such barbarism is celebrated.