Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

The debate before Columbus Day

Wick's World

 


I’ve made it an unwritten rule to never write a column in a fit of rage. Whenever I do, it is filled with many regrets and “I never should have said that” moments. Such is the case from the most recent historically distasteful mud fest between Trump and Clinton.

I will make one statement and it may indeed be the one I wish I had never said. If our country has come to the point to where we elect as president someone who acts like a dictator such as the likes of Stalin, Hitler, Marcos, Noriega or Caligula, then I regret having participated in the United States Army’s installation of Panama’s military dictator General Omar Torrijos in the late 1960s. I felt invasion was wrong when I participated in it, but I sided with America’s interest in regaining the Panama Canal — the tradeoff between our government and the ruthless military dictator. I should not have supported a banana republic dictator then and I will not support one now. Enough said. I will assimilate this conversation to a national holiday that needs more than a name change.

For me, Columbus Day always meant a paid holiday from the post office — no more, no less. My customers would often state, “Another day off for you overpaid government workers.”

I always agreed with them. It was certainly easier than trying to justify a day off with pay to salute the man responsible for opening up an entire continent to genocide. Ironically, Columbus was from the Republic of Genoa; they should have termed it Genoacide.

Discovering the real story of Christopher Columbus’s adventures will never be found in classroom textbooks. The Genoan’s travels were mostly about finding gold and treasures and seeking out new peoples to oppress, although as students we were led to believe it was about discovering "The New World."

Although he was credited with "discovering" America, Columbus actually landed on the islands of the Bahamas and Cuba before he stopped at Hispaniola, which is now modern day Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The man thought he had already reached Asia, specifically India, so he called the natives Indians. Most of what we learned in our school textbooks was just about as erroneous as the name Columbus gave the natives.

The natives were about as peaceful and generous a folk as Columbus had ever met, but rather than graciously accept their hospitality and welcoming, he quickly took advantage of them. Note what is written in Christopher Columbus’s personal log. “They do not bear arms ... they have no iron. Their spears are made of cane ... they would make fine servants (slaves). With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” And he did.

His official report to the Court in Madrid reaffirmed this. “(The Indians) are so naïve and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no.”

Columbus considered these easy pickings, so the natives were readily enslaved and the raping, pillaging and plundering began. Columbus and his men were so brutal to these peaceful people that eventually they began mass suicides rather than live under this type of oppression. Howard Zimm quoted in his book titled "A People’s History of the United States," “In two years, through murder, mutilation or suicide, half the 250,000 Indians on Haiti were dead.”

There was a young Spanish priest named Bartolome de la Casas who became a vehement critic of what was happening in the "New World." He not only transcribed Columbus’ journal, but contributed to what he had seen with his own eyes. “Endless testimonies prove the mild temperament of the natives ... But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy ... so that from 1494 to 1508 over three million people (natives) had perished from war and slavery.”

As stated by Howard Zimm, “Thus began the history, 500 years ago, of the European invasion of the settlements in the Americas.”

I read a message on Facebook from a Native American friend the other day. He said, “I’m going to celebrate Columbus Day by moving in some white person’s house and tell them that it’s mine.”

Unfortunately, the story about the Columbus Day holiday isn’t quite that funny. Over 500 years later, certain groups of people in this country and all over the planet are still living in oppression, subjugated by the will of others, be it by sex, race, color, religion, sexual orientation or cultural differences. As a species, the human still has a long way to go. This is evidenced by our presidential race.

 

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