February 1, 2013
Am Hist I (12pm) Mazurek
“Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492...” This popular poem has become engraved in the minds of many children for years. From a young age, certain facts about the discovery of America are taught. What is not being realized is that many specifics are being omitted from lessons. This being said, it is important to note that it is no longer as simple to just explain that Christopher Columbus discovered America. Even in many history textbooks throughout modern America, some of the truths are absent. Columbus has recently become so controversial, especially at the time of his quincentennial, because of this oblivious ignorance of the facts of history. Many believe that from the start, Christopher Columbus doomed the indigenous people of the Americas. Furthermore, these individuals agree that Columbus should not be so widely celebrated. Similarly, as previously mentioned, the history of the discovery of America has been unfairly portrayed for generations. From the very beginning, Columbus and his followers had their eyes set on conquering the New World that they would claim as their own.
While it is not untrue to say that Christopher Columbus can be credited with the discovery of the New World, it must be noted that he did so in a rather unruly and unnecessary manner. From the aspect of the native Americans that Columbus “discovered,” his arrival started the destruction of the native peoples (Gray 1). This natural world he discovered would soon be corrupted by the European invasion of the New World. What Columbus mistook for ignorance from the indigenous was actually just a different, unpretentious way of living in which the natives were quite comfortable. “’They were well fed and well housed, without poverty or serious disease. They enjoyed considerable leisure… and expressed themselves artistically…They lived in general harmony and peace without greed or covetousness or theft’” (4). From the evidence we can collect, it seems as if the natives were not without fault as the prelapsarian myth suggests, but they were content before Columbus and probably would have lived in prosperity completely satisfied without Columbus (4). It needs to be well understood that Columbus is a historical figure, not a historical hero.
It is not only what Columbus did to the native American’s that made him so controversial, but the fact that he is being so positively celebrated for it. All of the misconceptions about Columbus and his discovery of the New World can be stemmed back to the fact that the first Americans were trying to free themselves from their motherland, England. The colonials needed an “American” hero, an ancestor that was not British; therefore, they hyped up Columbus “in an early attempt to provide the nation with the icons of multicultural diversity” (3). Columbus, from the perspective of many, is a historical fraud to say the least. He contributed to a mass genocide of the indigenous people and is still being considered a hero. He promoted slavery, murder, and theft of ownership, the very basics that the constitution was written years later to prevent, when he took the Americas for his own. It is obvious why so many groups of people are speaking out to ask a simple question: Why is the Hitler of 1492 being celebrated-especially 500 years later? (2). To numerous people it is not only something incredibly shameful to rejoice in, but it is simply morally wrong. As a modern day native American stated, “’We’re talking about celebrating the great benefit to some people brought by the murder of other people’” (2). From the point of view of the native Americans, it is wrong to celebrate Columbus for his “achievements” when it brought their ancestors great suffering. It is not only wrong to embrace him, but some crucial facts are being left behind.
History as we know it has more or less been misinterpreted. Only recently is it being recognized...