On page one of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” the first characters introduced are the Arawak tribe and Columbus. The first quote shared from a primary source is Christopher Columbus’ infamous declaration that “with 50 men we could subjugate them all.” This was right after the Arawaks bestowed upon him gifts and peace. They were well built and handsome and lacked that one key thing that changed their course of history: weaponry. Columbus had swords, shields, impenetrable armor, horses with armor, and the new weapon Western civilization would use to conquer the world: the gun.
So begins the genesis of our Western world. The new world’s garden of Eden was polluted so quickly by the greed and malice of the Europeans. Columbus was only the beginning. For the next several hundred years and to this very day, the Western world has dictated and destroyed the lives of the indigenous peoples across the globe. Whether it’s massive oil and agricultural companies tearing down the Amazon or natural gas companies building pipelines through last bits of sacred territory, there has been no end to the madness of the New World. But as people living in the 21st century we have the opportunity to learn from our past and improve upon it. To stop polluting and destroying our ecosystem. To honor and respect the Native peoples.
Today we celebrate that death of peace and hope. There was a glimmer of hope in building a new world here on our Western Hemisphere. The glimmer was the bright side of humanity. All that is good and altruistic. Unfortunately, Columbus with the tide of expansionism, colonialism, Christian extremism and just pure human depravity, would initiate the genocide of millions of human beings, the pollution and holocaust of our ecosystem, and the extermination of millions of species of animals, including the near extinguishing of our national animal: the American Bison. This is part of the American story. One we should recognize and grow stronger from.
Columbus Day should be renamed, period. We should shed ourselves from his name and legacy and instead celebrate the people and land who have resisted and survived many decades of colonialism and injustice. Columbus was a mass murdering lunatic who believed in nothing that we as a society have tried to promote: that all men and women are created equal. This goal is the crux of the American experiment. Columbus represents none of that. A simple start to acknowledging our past would be to change this holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It is easy and morally right. There is no need to continue the legacy and lies of Christopher Columbus.