There are only a few people who have seen my rants: Hubbie, who usually walked away open-mouthed and stiff-legged, wondering “what the heck just happened” and “I don’t think I can fix this.” And then there’s my one friend who is actually ADD-squared, and is therefore probably the only one who can follow my torrent of thoughts.
So I won’t really have a good rant here. I can’t type that fast anyway.
But it is COLUMBUS DAY — I think. The calendar says it’s a holiday. Some official things were closed, but most everything was not. I don’t know if the television said anything, but the radio didn’t say much. Did the Italian clubs around the country have their big parties and parades? Did the children in schools make silhouettes of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria?
Or is this another of our heroes that have been lied about and stolen from us?
So . . . . that’s the end of my very, very subdued rant. A poor one indeed.
Now, as adults we know that there were many waves of explorers who came to this continent. We know that the copper mines of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan were operated thousands of years ago and probably gave rise to the Bronze Age. We know that Chinese were here thousands of years ago. There is evidence in the form of artifacts that the Africans were here, the Egyptians, probably, and the Mauritanians. We know the Vikings were here, leaving evidence all the way to the Mississippi River.
But for our particular time in history, we honor Columbus as the man whose explorations led to further explorations and then settlements here, allowing European culture to expand in various forms on these two Western continents.
But, then, what did Columbus and the other modern-day explorers find? Tropical islands in the “Caribbean” Sea and they also found the Caribs themselves – those sad and primitive tribes whose own violent and immoral practices were decimating their own population with murder, wars, slavery, and disease, including a virulent, non-European form of syphilis.
You may read some of the scholarly historical journals and some of the science journals, and they all present the same story: the population of the “Indians” in this region of the world was in a steep decline — before Christopher Columbus got here.
The above 17th century engraving was made from sketches and eyewitness reports from the previous century. It’s a picture of some Carib Indians, sitting around their campfires – eating their evening meal, which just happens to be people from their enemy tribes. The Caribs were cannibals.
I don’t want to repeat the stories you know so well about Columbus’s “discoveries” which were the slave lodges holding pre-pubescent girls for….whatever purposes. The killings, the torturing, the slavery, the cannibalism, the fearful superstitions, the constant warfare — all this scandalized the Europeans.
And the sailors that worked on the ships that Columbus took to America were from the dregs of society. They were scarcely civilized themselves, and Columbus had to be constantly vigilant against them. They signed on, willingly or unwillingly, and expected only one reward: money. The possibility of receiving wages and booty was just about the only thing that could be used to control them.
They came on shore at the various islands and sometimes obeyed, sometimes disobeyed their commander. They were killed, they caught diseases, some were executed (under Christian European law) for gross acts of violence against the natives, and some came back to their homeland, alive. Mostly, they praised Columbus.
What we know of Christopher Columbus we know from his own writings, his own log book of his several trips to the Americas, and we know by his actions. Sticking to this evidence alone, he was a pious man, devout, loyal to the king and queen who underwrote his explorations, a firm and fair leader of his ships’ crews, he was self-sacrificing, courageous, honest, and thoroughly in tune with the highest goals of the Europe of the 15th century.
I’ve read his logbook, but strangely, every time I order a copy from Amazon, it becomes “not available.” My state library has stopped loaning out books, and I can’t find the logbook on their shelves anymore anyway. I’ll keep searching.
This was a good and honest man. He really did help to open up this continent by his heroic achievements. He deserves our honor, and our children deserve a hero like this.
(No, he wasn’t an evil conquistador. He wasn’t a murderer. He wasn’t the “secret son of a pope.” He wasn’t an occultist. )
And one more thing: There isn’t too much cannibalism going on in this hemisphere anymore. For the time being.