Every second Monday of October is a federal holiday known as Columbus Day. Government offices are closed as is all banks. The retailers love this holiday; it is their jump-start for Christmas sales. On this date we are supposed to celebrate the life of a man who discovered "the new world." But this man's life is not one to be celebrated but rather forgotten.
This all started in the 1930's when the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men's organization, wanted a Catholic hero to hold up to the nation. They must of had some powerful lobbyists; President Roosevelt signed the holiday into law in 1937. And ever since, we are supposed to celebrate the life of a murderer, rapist, and slaver.
Columbus never, ever set foot on land that we know as the USA. The first place he placed his foot on was an island in the Bahamas chain. Then, he pushed off to walk on what we know today as Cuba; that's the closest he ever got to mainland USA. He made a total of four voyages, all of them a disaster for the indigenous populations.
This man made his fortune by becoming a master slave trader and had no qualms about selling girls as young as ten into sexual slavery. In his lust for gold, Columbus is personally responsible for the genocide of thousands of native peoples; the island of Hispaniola, modern day Haiti and the Dominican Republic, had at least 250,000 inhabitants - all dead within ten years of Columbus's arrival. And, it appears that he and his son introduced the black slave trade from Africa into "the new world." So you want to celebrate this man's life, a man who cut off the hands of indigenous people who did not bring him enough gold? And then we have syphilis.
The debate rages on as to who introduced syphilis to who; the Europeans to the natives or the natives to the Europeans. What is not debatable is the massive uptick in deaths in the old and new worlds from this killer disease after Columbus's voyages. How can a person in good conscience celebrate a man like this? A person of conscience cannot. In our time, a man like this would be sitting on death row waiting for a needle in his arm. There is a solution.
It is a fact that Leif Ericsson hit the beach in North America five hundred years before Columbus raped his first native girl. It is a fact that there were at least two more voyages after Leif. It is a fact that they made temporary settlements. It is also a fact that these men (and women) did not stick around for long; the natives did not want these tall pale skinned fellows to partake of their beachfront property. And these men did not rape, murder, or enslave anyone - history still refers to them as Vikings. Here is an idea.
A Catholic Christian men's organization is responsible for the creation of this horrid holiday. The Sons of Norway can and should petition Congress to replace Columbus with Leif Ericsson. It is the ethically, historically, and morally right thing to do.
Copyright @2015 Terry Unger