The content of this webpage, and everything associated with this webpage, is independent of the Peace Corps and the United States Government, though I think they should read it too. This blog solely reflects the experiences and observations of Jake DeBerry.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Columbus Day...seriously?

One of the most blatant examples of the sometimes inaccurate, usually incomplete and always one-sided history that we are taught as kids deals with Columbus. We are about to celebrate Columbus Day…seriously? We have a holiday for one of vilest men in history responsible for genocide. Why don’t we just combine this holiday, like President’s Day, with other’s in his company…like Cortes, Pizarro, Hitler, Stalin, and others and toast to those who have killed an immense amount of people. Columbus actually led a successful genocide (the complete killing of an entire population – not that the others didn’t give it a good try.

Growing up, I was taught that Columbus was a bold and daring man. He founded America! Despite all the odds, he was an adventurous man that set off with three small ships to charter the unknown. He was turned down for funding by his countrymen…but believed in his dream so much he wouldn’t quit and finally had Spain finance his journey as he sailed to the end of the world, into the unknown. We are taught that he was a hero and we have him to thank for this wonderful nation, America.

Upon arriving to the New Land – what is now Cuba and Hispaniola, he was greeted by the inhabitants that swam out to greet his ship, the Arawaks. The Arawaks lived as a shared resources population. They didn’t idolize possessions, they lived in communal huts, and women were treated as equals. As the Arawaks gave gifts to Columbus, he immediately took some captive, set up a fort with one of the ships, then told the other 2 to sail back to alert Spain that he had found a vast land full of gold and slaves. With all haste, Spain sent 17 ships and around 1,500 men to search for gold and mail slaves to Spain. Either the Arawaks could stay and be slaves to the gold mining where the women would be raped incessantly and the men murdered without thought all the while being starved and introduced to smallpox…or they could be shipped to Spain to live as slaves in a strange land. Many killed their babies to save them from the Spaniards.

One of the problems though with the island Hispaniola (now Haiti and the DR), is there really isn’t much gold to be found. Columbus had to make up for this by shipping more slaves back to Spain. He also pushed the Arawaks to seek gold out day and night. They had a system, those who brought gold back received medallions to wear around their neck and if you were found without one, you were killed. The native’s life meant so little that Spaniards would test out the sharpness of their swords on them…just for fun. Columbus arrived in 1492…by the 1600’s, not a single person with Arawak blood remained (between 300,000 to 400,000 are estimated to have been living there upon arrival, according to modern accounts).

So, Columbus wasn’t able to murder as many people as Hitler or Pizarro…but he was able to wipe a population off the globe. Yes – let’s celebrate Columbus! Let’s celebrate all those people who have murdered and raped people all the while claiming to be good moral people. Let’s celebrate the hypocrisy of our lives, our continual denial of real history, make infinite allowances for how our ancestors treated people, and continue to revere them.

Perhaps, as some Americans have the day off, they can take the day to ponder the atrocities and pointless bloodshed of Columbus and the men that came before and after him. Let’s think about the 400 treaties the American government broke with the Indians as we pushed them off their land and claimed them to be savages and liars. Let’s think about manifest destiny and how ‘god’ ordained our greed. Let’s think about all the pointless deaths we took in the Philippines, Korea, and Vietnam (and all the other countries). Let’s think about all the innocent farmers and children and mothers and fathers that we are killing now as we try to hunt for insurgents in Afghanistan (if you're unaware, we’ve killed more innocent people than insurgents). Let’s keep idolizing those who kill while announcing peacemakers as unpatriotic.

“Heaven is not beyond the clouds, it’s just beyond the fear. No heaven is not beyond the clouds, it’s for us to find right here.”

Love,
Jake

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