The world is still sliced in two between the worthy — the owning classes, the corporate masters, the generals — and the nobodies. The invaded, the owned, the bombed, the poisoned, the silenced.
History is never how we thought it was. Columbus was kind of like a Captain Bligh towards his men though people rarely mention it. The ‘Black Legend’ of the Spanish that Las Casas documents is a measure of humanity’s inhumanity to man as much as was the evil inhumanity of the Nazi concentration camps. The wholesale ritual slaughter practiced by the Aztecs is almost beyond belief but then Timur the Lame’s pyramids of human heads (25,000) as a warning to cities to not oppose him was only marginally better!
We are a nasty piece of work in any age but then such is our history. Our ancestors were among the lucky ones that survived meeting our other ancestors.
Columbus was a dirty rotten scoundrel, and then some. And he probably reincarnated as Donald Trump.
Bill, excellent piece. In the high school English course I taught, we read an essay by Bary Lopez, The Rediscovery of North America. It begins with similar quotations by Las Casas, but then uses Columbus as a metaphor, an analytical framework to examine the centuries that followed, and the extermination of Native Americans. Lopez - environmentalist that he is - points out that the Spanish and subsequent invaders wiped out far more than indigenous civilizations. They wiped out entire ecosystems.
Interesting article - that needs to be heard widely. And the thing is that not only here in the US, but even in Europe (east and west), Columbus and his story is taught the same. He is portrayed as an explorer and as a progressive person who discovered this new world.
Author closes beautifully with the claim that not much has changed in the world, and reminded me of the Hammurabi’s time division of people into superiors, commoners, and slaves - 4 thousand years ago.
Some worthwhile books to read are Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s book, An Indigenous Peoples History Of The United States, Ward Churchill’s, A Little Matter Of Genocide.
Thank you for this important article----so what will New York and Boston be doing on this day of blood–celebrating imperialism-people should protest these parades and statues celebrating genocide.
Yes, wiping out indigenous people and ecosystems go hand in hand. The USA today is proof positive of this.
Colonilisation was directed toward grand theft, genocide and slavery. A glowing lie has been written by the perpetrators of gross crimes against humanity.
This is a SNAPSHOT of the Heritage of Who We Are and Where We Came From.
Civilized Europe had the power to do whatever it felt it wanted. To their own and to others.
— kinda sounds like the U.S. foreign — and domestic — policy today.
And they came … as CHRISTIANS, with rituals, symbols, solemn and pompous figures with posturing and pontification, to spread the “gospel” they had developed for over 1000 years. To spread and ignore Death if they so decided. Was Jesus pleased, you think? Did God sink Columbus’ ship?
I think the blame should go where the guilty travel. If someone lies, cheats and steals and murders, we all know that these things are wrong. Yet people do them and always will. It is of no importance really as to what the guilty say about their doing such things, the fact is that they did them. Are the Aztecs with their wholesale human sacrifice and ritual slaughter and torture innocent because they considered the horrors they did a religious practice? The Spanish who did these terrible things should not be held up as examples of Christianity. They were acting without moral restraint thousands of miles from home. Evil must be stopped by good. Evil doesn’t stop of its own accord. Bad people do bad things. Just like they always have. It is not the technicality that these people called themselves christians. The reality is that they did not act like christians. The shooter in Vegas did what he did not the religion he had if he had one. He did it. He is to blame for the evil he did.
Ah, but so often the doctrine and practice of a given religion justifies and even demands some of these terrible actions, and calls those who practice them good and worthy of reward. The social far outweighs the individual when it comes to moral definitions.
Try not to confuse primitive magic rituals and mind numbing cultic beliefs with modern religious faith. There is no legal justification under the rubric of God made me do it. While a person can believe it (son of Sam believed a neighbor’s dog told him to murder), the responsibility is still theirs alone. People can claim all manner of justifications for what they do but the law sees it plainly. The why is of less importance than is the who!
Columbus discovered America taught at an early age in US schools. Yeah he discovered it was populated, left that part out.
Same goes for the genocidal Gov Edward Cornwallis in Nova Scotia circa 1749, Canada. Here’s a glimpse of an act of courage perpetrated by an indigenous woman in Halifax on Canada Day. BTW, t’was the European settlers who were the ‘real savages.’ Bravo Janis for your tremendous courage to initiate this much needed dialogue. Love is always!
Your last paragraph (below) summarizes it well. We must stop praising greedy, violent conquerers!
“So yes, let’s pull down the monuments, let’s make the holidays more inclusive, let’s rewrite the textbooks and children’s literature. But let’s also challenge the fundamental structures of ownership, power, and privilege that have given us such a skewed constellation of heroes and holidays.”
Why has the myth continued?
They were Christians!!!
A Canadian senator came out in defense of the residential school system in Canada - a system that destroyed culture plus child abuse and murder and separation of families - because it brought them Christianity.
Christianity - master race - this mentality is largely a play today in the US military.
I don’t like this article Giovanna-Lepore, and I am replying to you because I think you seek the truth.
This article lacks balance and perspective, the same lack of balance, perspective and attention to both detail and the broader trends of history which are causing us so much grief today.
I do agree with Bill Bigelow on this:
“Columbus’ world is not so different from the world we live in today.”
The book I would recommend to you is this:
“Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem”, by Carol Delaney, a renowned scholar.
I look at the world today - let’s focus on the USA, but it could be anywhere.
What do we see?
I see religious belief - a lot - often radical and fundamentalist, as people seek moral certitude in times of change, but also because of our certain mortal nature.
Fear rules many of us - and it gets truly ugly when the individual becomes a mob - like ISIS - like the US Christian Right, military commanders included, some at the very top of their profession.
In 1492 Spain had just completed the Reconquista - which was a reclaiming of the Iberian Penninsula after the Islamic conquest in the seven hundreds (see Wikipedia).
In other words - Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations - going on still today.
This is not to excuse Columbus - but to put his beliefs and actions in perspective.
Have all the Progressives on this site forgotten so soon the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and those of more recent vintage?
Or do we seek to find scapegoats to relieve our own consciences?
Columbus was a man - like other men - as Kane of Kung Fu fame once said - like you and I.
You and I believe the world is warming due to our fossil fuel use and land use practices - and that we are destroying the habitability of the planet for its current denizens.
Others believe this is not the case - in effect - that the world is flat.
And in the last US election - almost no one voted progressive - for the Green Party.
And we have the effrontery to criticize Columbus and his beliefs - with no balance or perspective in sight.
I am not religious - I believe as Jefferson - that belief is a form of delusion - outright delusion - but that is who we are - very afraid homo sapiens confronting The Great Mystery every day of our all too short lives.
Even the tribes had slaves - torture and many practices which we called savage.
Today the tribes and indigenous wisdom are all the rage - another form of changing perspectives.
No - we should seek to be understanding first.
There are parts of indigenous knowledge which we have not, as a society, but then there are natural scientists and science in general which have expanded our perspective of the wider universe which they did not possess.
This article is too self-serving - too righteous.
Maybe we should demonstrate some of the compassion we all talk about - and walk the talk ?
I recommend the book mentioned above, then we can talk more.
Blame goes to the individual and not his country, his ethnicity, his religion or lack of religion, nor anything else that is basically irrelevant to his act of evil. I see no point in repeating what I wrote before except to reaffirm it here.
The time is NOW for the People to rise up, in all ways, and oppose, resist, and rebel against World-wide fascist imperialism, from Catitlan to Latin America to Warsington!
All POWER to ythe People!