Monday, October 14, 2013

Columbus Day: A National Embarassment

Christopher Columbus is quite possibly one of the most whitewashed figures in history, and yet one of the most deserving of the label "war criminal."

First, the most blatant lies.

1) Columbus discovered America.

Typically, this is phrased in a way to imply Columbus discovered the lands that became the United States. He did land in the Carribean, Central America, and in South America.  But never in North America. Which makes Columbus Day as a U.S. holiday silly.

2) Columbus proved the world wasn't flat.

No educated person in the 1400s thought the world was flat. This lie is one of the most perpetuated lies in education, and it's wrong in ever possible way. I'm not going to bother to cite every example, but the Ancient Greeks knew the world wasn't flat in the 5th century B.C.

These are the most common things people point out. Here are the things you should know below the fold (most information taken from this page, unless otherwise noted).

On his first voyage, Columbus, seeing golden jewelry on the natives got his conqueror juices flowing. "I could conquer the whole of them with fifty men and govern them as I pleased." This was despite noting the people of the island were very hospitable, saying: "They offered to share with anyone and when you ask for something, they never say no." The native populace didn't even have weapons. Columbus used what he saw as weakness to his advantage took 20-25 of the native population as slaves back to Spain (of which no more than 8 survived the journey). This should be noted as the start of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. There's a certain irony that Columbus shares the distinction of a federal holiday alongside Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.

The entire purpose of Columbus's second voyage was to subdue the natives for gold. He was given, by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, an army for the purpose of subjugation. Columbus demanded gold, cotton, food, and sex from the natives, and at the slightest resistance declared war. 200 foot soldiers, 20 cavalry, crossbows, small cannons, and hunting dogs were unleashed on a Native populace whose only defense were rudimentary spears. The dogs were fed with the sometimes still living bodies of the fallen. As a reward to himself, Columbus took 1,000 of the natives as slaves. 500 stayed on the island in the "care" of the local governor. The other 500 were taken across the ocean as slaves to Europe, with 300 surviving the journey.

Columbus instilled a tribute system among the Natives. Everyone over the age of 14 had to bring Columbus either gold powder or 25 pounds of cotton roughly every three months, or else he would cut off their hands and make them wear it around their necks. Think Jamie Lannister, but without the great acting and thematic music score. By the way, if you haven't seen Game of Thrones Season 3 or read Storm of Swords yet, don't read that last sentence. Additionally, Columbus oversaw the buying and selling of child sex slaves; "A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand."

So next time you hear someone extolling the deeds of Christopher Columbus, do to them what Christopher Columbus would do: cut off their hands for being rebellious, steal their things, and sell them into slavery. Or just educate them on why Christopher Columbus was a terrible human being. Preferably the latter.

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