I would like to make a few reality resets to the long-celebrated character of Christopher Columbus and the so-called glory of his accomplishments. Anyone who reads the unredacted account of Columbus’ landing on an outlying island in the Caribbean and subsequent events, might want to consider reestablishing the holiday in the name of some relatively more moral and decent historical or fictional Italian-American like Alphonse Capone or Anthony Soprano.
It seems to me that, in all things great and small, Columbus comes up short. He even cheated a member of his crew, Juan Rodriguez Bermeo, out of his reward (a lifetime pension) for being the first man to sight land.
Of his greater crimes, Christopher Colombo (Dove in English) shared a tradition of theft, pillage, rape and ecocide that is the hallmark of what we euphemistically call Civilization. In that respect we have only increased the severity of our crimes compared to those of the 15th-16th Century Spanish. We, unlike the Christian Spanish, have enough sense of history to give our atrocities the proper PR spin.
Columbus “discovered” nothing. He led an incursion into a continent of cultures far more intelligent, spiritually advanced and sustainable than the barbarians who destroyed them. Unlike the Africans, who were forcibly removed from their native soil, the indigenous people of the North American continent never made proper slaves. The only final solution for these useless “Indians” was genocide. Hitler was so impressed with his reading of American history that he partly modeled the Holocaust after the US government’s treatment of our indigenous population.
For those who say it is unfair to judge a man outside the context of his time, I would cite the words of Bartolome de las Casas, 15th Century Dominican and advocate of compassion in the face of the atrocities of empire.
“Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight as no age can parallel…my eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature that now I tremble as I write.”
Italian-Americans need to find another holiday in which to celebrate their deserved heroes. The observance of Columbus Day is only a reminder of another shameful chapter in our history. Out of respect for the victims, who continue to suffer at our hands, let’s call it “Incursion Day.”
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|Timothy V. Gatto|