Adios, Columbus

The controversy surrounding the Columbus Day holiday is part of a culture war that includes the removal of Confederate monuments and the NFL protests.  Columbus Day is being renamed Indigenous Peoples Day in many locations.  The battles being fought over Columbus Day are already being fought over Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July.  The very foundation of America is under assault.  Many powerful elite organizations are taking part in this attack and have been for decades.

The American Library Association issued a statement in 1990 denouncing the Columbus Jubilee.  They claimed that the 1492 event "began a legacy of European piracy, brutality, slave trading, murder, disease, conquest, and ethnocide."  The National Council of Churches passed a resolution condemning Columbus for invading America and inflicting "slavery, genocide, theft, and exploitation" on the natives.  The National Education Association's journal, NEA Today, declared, "Christopher Columbus brought slavery to this hemisphere."  Journalist Richard Bernstein attended the 1987 convention of the American Historical Association.  He reported, "The unvarying underlying themes were the repressiveness inherent in American life and the sufferings of groups claiming to be victims of that repressiveness. ... The history of the United States was the history of suffering for all but the white establishment."  This critical outlook is reflected in the National Standards for U.S. and World History.

A major factor in binding a society together is a shared history.  To Americans, the Alamo is an example of heroism.  Mexicans have another view.  Heroes play an important part in a nation's history.  Heroes, being human, have many flaws.  Therefore, much of the accounts of their lives are based on myths.  The story of Columbus was traditionally embellished, and his flaws were overlooked.  We are now confronting the opposite situation.  Many American heroes have undergone this transition.  People still require heroes (role models), and unfortunately, many of these new heroes are now rap singers, drug-pushers, and sports figures.

Perhaps the most damaging attacks take place in the classroom.  Kennedy School principal Anne Foley wrote, "When we were young we might have been able to claim ignorance of the atrocities that Christopher Columbus committed against the indigenous peoples."  She continued, "We can no longer do so. For many of us and our students celebrating this particular person is an insult and a slight to the people he annihilated. On the same lines, we need to be careful around the Thanksgiving Day time as well."  Bill Bigelow of the Zinn Education Project proclaimed, "If Indigenous peoples' lives mattered, and if Black people's lives mattered, it would be inconceivable to honor Columbus, the father of the slave trade, with a national holiday."  James Kracht from the Texas A&M College of Education believes that "[t]he indigenous population was kind of waiting expectantly (with the arrival of Columbus), almost with smiles on their faces."  Kracht envisioned them saying, "'I wonder what this guy is bringing us[.]' Well, he's bringing us smallpox, for one thing, and none of us [is] going to live very long."

The arguments used in the attack on Columbus can be used to attack the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and other holidays.  And so the attack on Columbus can be put in a larger context: we are witnessing an all-out assault on our culture, led by members of our own "elite."

John Dietrich is a freelance writer and the author of The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy (Algora Publishing).  He has a master of arts degree in international relations from St. Mary's University.  He is retired from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

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