For much of the country, this past Monday was Columbus Day. The holiday that celebrates the day that Christopher Columbus discovered a new land that would come to be known as America. At least, that is the story that many of us were told as children and continue to believe to this day. But the truth is, many of us (including, it seems, our nation’s leader) were told a strange warped version of American history.
On Oct. 9, 2020, The White House issued a proclamation from President Trump regarding Columbus Day. In which the president effused about Columbus’ harrowing voyage and his well-deserved hard-earned legendary status as an American hero. Except… he is not.
Before I go any further, let me make something clear. Columbus Day is not political. Or rather I should say, it should not be politicized. As President Trump would have you believe, I am a “radical activist” who seeks to undermine Columbus’ great legacy. As if the very thought of opposing Columbus Day is un-American. But here is the thing. Columbus does not stand for anything American. He did not even discover America.
That is right. The story many of us were told as children and that many people still believe today is that Columbus discovered America. He did not. He did not even land on American shores. He landed in the Bahamas. In fact, Columbus never even stepped foot on North American soil. So how exactly is opposing Columbus Day un-American when Columbus never set foot in America? By the time he landed in the Bahamas, America had already been “discovered” by Leif Erikson, hundreds of years before Columbus. Even then, it is not like America was just a barren and unpopulated land, there were millions of people living there.
Upon arrival to the Bahamas, Columbus encountered a group of friendly natives who wished to trade, what did Columbus do in return? Enslave them. Columbus wrote in his journal, “They do not carry arms or know them...They should be good servants.” What an American hero. Columbus later became the governor of the territory, where he mistreated not only the natives but also the Spanish colonists who were there. Under many charges, he was arrested and brought back to Spain by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, to whom he admitted the accusations were true. He was stripped of his title as governor. Again, what an American hero.
The president also said in his proclamation, that the opposing of Columbus Day is a recent issue (suggesting it has been designed by liberals to take away our American traditions). But that is simply not true. In fact, you can trace controversy as far back as the 1970s. Since 1991, states have been replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. As of this year’s Columbus Day, Minnesota, Alaska, Maine, Louisiana, Oregon, New Mexico, Nevada and Vermont, as well as South Dakota have adopted an alternative to the federal holiday. So no, it is not a new issue as the president would have you believe. It is simply another tactic employed by the president to manifest imagined issues and further the rift between political parties. But is there really anything to debate?
Just before bestowing the title of hero upon Columbus in his proclamation, the president mentioned how radical extremists wish to erase Columbus Day, saying, “Rather than learn from our history, this radical ideology and its adherents seek to revise it, deprive it of any splendor, and mark it as inherently sinister.” Mister President, how can I put it any clearer than Columbus tortured, killed and enslaved hundreds of native peoples. How can we call this anything but sinister?
There is no seeking to ‘revise’ America’s history, it has already been revised by the American public school system, but now is the time to right wrongs. Individuals like myself who seek to rid America of Columbus Day do not want Americans to forget history, we want it to be remembered, but the way to remember it is not to glorify murderers. No, Mister President, Christopher Columbus was not a hero, and his holiday should be stricken from our calendars and replaced with one that honors those who were lost in the founding of our nation, and who continue to be let down by leaders like you.