Why I Love Columbus Day
Why I Love Columbus Day
By Johnny Barber / onebrightpearl-jb.blogspot.com
Oct 8, 2012

I love Columbus Day. Each year, I recall the simple song I learned as a child about the man who "discovered" America. I still recall the innocent boy whose imagination was taken by the story of adventure and discovery.

In fourteen hundred and ninety two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

On Columbus Day, I reflect on the facts of that fateful discovery. Hispaniola at the time of Columbus' arrival was home to as many as 300,000 people. On seeing the Arawak people Columbus wrote in his journal, "At daybreak great multitudes of men came to the shore, all young and of fine shapes, and very handsome. Their eyes are large and very beautiful." In the same entry he wrote, "It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion." Columbus kidnapped up to 25 people, although only seven or eight survived the journey back to Spain. By 1496, it is estimated that one third of the population had been killed or taken as slaves. In 1592, fewer than 200 Indigenous people remained. By 1555, none survived.

I realize every lie and distortion I hold of my country began in that classroom all those years ago.

I love Columbus Day. It reminds me that often, even the most God-fearing individuals are the most self-deluded. In the spring of 1493, Columbus wrote to a sponsor, "They are artless and generous with what they have, to such a degree as no one would believe but him who had seen it. Of anything they have, if it be asked for, they never say no, but do rather invite the person to accept it, and show as much lovingness as though they would give their hearts." Later in the letter Columbus went on to say, "Their Highnesses may see that I shall give them as much gold as they need ... and slaves as many as they shall order to be shipped." Though he was aware of their generosity and selflessness, rather than emulate them, he decided he would subjugate them. Columbus was the first slave trader in the Americas.

Columbus Day reminds me that my country's origin was based on violence, subjugation, racism and genocide. As the native population was decimated, it was deemed necessary to bring slaves from Africa to the "New World" for cheap, disposable labor. Throughout the years when America was a slave republic, the wealthiest Americans were those who owned the most human beings. But we should not forget that slave owners spanned all classes. This, from America, the country founded on the idea that all human beings have equal intrinsic worth, value, and rights. The "land of the free, home of the brave," indeed.

I love Columbus Day. It reminds me that greed corrupts utterly. Columbus returned to Hispaniola to colonize the island. By 1495 Columbus and his men were terrorizing the indigenous people, demanding that they mine for gold and pay tribute to their masters. Those who could not provide the quota faced dismemberment and were sent back to their people as an example. There are first-hand accounts of soldiers hunting the Arawak for sport and feeding people to their dogs. Columbus himself documented sexual slavery of young children during his reign as "governor".

Today in America, one in every four African-American men is likely to be imprisoned. In the "War on Drugs', black and Latino men are arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned at highly disproportionate rates than whites. Our prisons are privatized for profit, operations whose stocks are traded on Wall Street. Whether you are a black man or woman in one of America's prisons, or you are undocumented and work under the blazing sun on American farms, you are paid pennies as others enrich themselves off of your labor.

Foreclosures have separated millions of black and brown Americans from their property. Of the nearly 10 million people whose homes have been foreclosed, 40 percent are black and Latino. The net worth in communities of color has plunged to the lowest level on record. Black and brown wealth has been transferred to America's largest banks. This theft has gone unchallenged as the banks have enriched themselves, received federal bailouts, and now investment companies seek to rent out the homes to the very people they have been stolen from.

In 1868, the United States signed a treaty setting aside the Black Hills "for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupancy of the Sioux." Within years gold was discovered there, and after negotiations to purchase the land broke down, the United States simply took it. In 1975, the presiding judge of the United States Court of Claims wrote, "A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealing will never, in all probability, be found in our history." This "rank case of dishonorable dealing" did not result in a return of that which was stolen. The Lakota Nation is currently raising 9 million dollars in order to buy back a small portion of sacred land in the Black Hills.

I love Columbus Day because the veneration of this man makes clear how George Bush a self described "compassionate conservative" can torture people and have a library built in his name. Barack Obama can win the Nobel Peace Prize as he authorizes summary execution of people through drone warfare and authorizes indefinite detention without trial of American citizens. Madeleine Albright, when confronted with the deaths of up to 500,000 Iraqi children during sanctions, can declare: "We think the price is worth it." She is now an author and a sought after speaker on the lecture circuit where she describes her life as "devoted to human rights." This self-delusion and ideas of grandeur poison us as we impose the same tough sanctions on Iran and call for that nations people to be brought to their knees. Medicines dwindle in Iranian hospitals and prices skyrocket due to hyperinflation, the currency losing 15 percent of its value overnight. It is only a matter of time until children starve.

We can look to Afghanistan and Iraq to see our imperialist footprint spreading across the globe. Afghanistan, with its untapped mineral wealth estimated in the trillions of dollars, and Iraq with its vast oil fields, its people only considered "collateral damage" if they are considered at all. Meanwhile, we formulate agreements with the governments we impose that will allow our corporations to steal the resources and keep the citizens in penury. The footprint is on the neck of the people.

And what of Palestine, and her people? It is America that provides the weapons, the cash, and the cover in all Israel's efforts to dispossess the Palestinian people of their land and resources. An Israeli soldier once told me to go home and deal with the dispossession of the indigenous people in America before I concerned myself with the plight of the Palestinians. He was correct in considering the parallels between genocide in America and ethnic cleansing in Palestine.

While countries smolder and survivors walk among the ruins, a generation lost to violence and destruction, we congratulate ourselves on "winning" and move on to the next conflagration. Americans are lost as well. Lost in our deluded imagination of a country that wishes peace in the world, we remain blind to the horrors of "shock and awe," drone attacks, night raids and torture while our government sows carnage in every direction. US threats to attack Iran are part of a century-old pattern of violence aimed at ensuring US domination. "Freedom!" we proclaim, "Democracy! How ungrateful these people are! Can't they see we have liberated them? Why do they hate us? It can only be because we are free." We wave our flags, paint stars and stripes on our faces and chant "USA! USA! USA!

Columbus Day is a good day to reconsider who I am. I have been to Big Mountain, the Four Corners, and Wounded Knee. I have heard the stories of relocation, theft, poverty and struggle. I have been to too many funerals in Marwahin, Jenin, Beit Lahiya and Gaza. I have sat in the rubble in al-Amiriya, in Qana, in Bint Jbeil, in Rafah, and in Kabul. I have cried with refugee grandmothers whose families have been scattered like seeds on the wind. I have cried with mothers whose children were torn to shreds under laser-guided bombs and whose sons have died as foot soldiers in our wars of conquest. I have cried with men who have dug the bodies of their wives and children from the rubble of their homes. I am intimate with this fella Columbus and I know too well that our national claim of freedom leaves me disgraced and dishonored.

And the blood flows.

 
3.6 ·
8
Trending Today
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 4,140 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
How Comedy Can Disarm Bullies
3 min · 3,502 views today · As long as you're funny, it can get you out of almost anything - even getting mugged, as co-founder of Between Two Ferns Scott Aukerman recounts. Unfortunately, not everyone...
Immigrants For Sale (2015)
33 min · 2,562 views today · The detention of migrants has become a multi-billion dollar industry in which immigrants are sold to the highest bidder and traded like mere products. The Corrections...
Globalization Makes No Sense
Chris Agnos · 2,337 views today · When I lived in San Francisco, I often would marvel at the movement of goods through the ports across the bay in Oakland. Full container ships would enter the bay one after...
Proof of Evolution That You Can Find on Your Body
4 min · 1,850 views today · Vestigial structures are evolution's leftovers — body parts that, through inheritance, have outlived the context in which they arose. Some of the most delightful reminders of...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 1,669 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,088 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 898 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 894 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Compassion, the Antidote
Martin Doblmeier · 802 views today · Thich Nhat Hanh has published nearly 100 books and is one of the best-known teachers of Zen Buddhism in the world today. In the early 1960s his practice of what he termed...
Without Saying a Word This 6 Minute Clip From Samsara Will Make You Speechless
6 min · 739 views today · Can you put this video into words? It's a clip from the phenomenal documentary Samsara, directed by Ron Fricke, who also made Baraka.  If you're interested in watching...
How Wolves Change Rivers
4 min · 683 views today · When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable "trophic cascade" occurred. What is a...
Those That Did Not Seek Revenge
Dr. Ann Russo · 604 views today · Dr. Ann Russo on violence, healing, and transforming justice.
Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men Of Touch
Mark Greene · 595 views today · Homophobic prohibitions against male touch are hurting straight men as well.
Stunning Small Homes Form Part of a Communal Compound for Best Friends
Lighter Side · 577 views today · If you’re lucky enough to have longtime friends even as an adult, then you know probably already know how much it means to be able to spend time together. Maybe you even have a...
Where the Term "Redneck" Came From
15 min · 493 views today · If you don't know this story, you'll never look at the word the same again.  This is just a window into the sometimes shocking, subversive and untold history of the United...
The Foiled Bomb Plot in Kansas That Didn't Make Trump's Terror List
5 min · 485 views today · When a plot by a pro-white militia to bomb a Somali mosque in Kansas was foiled by the FBI last October, the aborted conspiracy received little national coverage - nor did it...
DAPL Opponents Vow to 'Rise' From Ashes of Oceti Sakowin and Keep Fighting
Lauren McCauley · 481 views today · 'They cannot extinguish the fire that Standing Rock started,' Dallas Goldtooth declared
10 Words Every Girl Should Learn
Soraya Chemaly · 332 views today · "Stop interrupting me."  "I just said that." "No explanation needed." In fifth grade, I won the school courtesy prize. In other words, I won an award for being polite. My...
The Most Astounding Fact about the Universe
3 min · 239 views today · This is Neil Degrasse Tyson's response when asked to describe the most astounding fact about the universe. Background music is the cinematic orchestra - To build a home.
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
Why I Love Columbus Day