I’ve always found the fetishization of Christopher Columbus to be confusing, and more than a bit idiotic.
- First, he did not “”discover America”. The North American continent was already inhabited. More to the point, he never actually set foot on the North American continent itself.
These are facts. Any attempt to evade them (ESPECIALLY when the motive for such evasion is the maintenance of a “cherished myth”) is utterly indefensible — even from the context of “Objectivism”.
During four separate trips that started with the one in 1492, Columbus landed on various Caribbean islands that are now the Bahamas as well as the island later called Hispaniola. He also explored the Central and South American coasts. But he didn’t reach North America, which, of course, was already inhabited by Native Americans, and he never thought he had found a new continent. You may also remember that it is believed that Norse explorer Leif Erikson reached Canada perhaps 500 years before Columbus was born, and there are some who believe that Phoenician sailors crossed the Atlantic much earlier than that.
So, no. Columbus didn’t “discover” dick. At most, he (entirely inadvertently) managed to blunder across some islands, and then managed to basically exterminate the indigenous inhabitants of those islands.
Oh, wait, that’s right: the “gimmick” of Columbus-fetishists is that stuff like the Vinland colony didn’t result in “lasting” European occupation of the Americas.
That would be tantamount of claiming that the Right Brother’s aircraft “doesn’t count”, because they didn’t manage to build something equivalent to a stealth bomber.
But the worst thing about Rightist/Objectard fetishization of Columbus?
The “holiday” itself was originally motivated by identity politics, and codified into law by FDR:
The first Columbus Day celebration recorded in the United States was in New York on October 12th, 1792, held to honor Italian-American heritage. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937 proclaimed October 12th to be Columbus Day, a national holiday. In 1971, the holiday date was changed to the second Monday in October.
Now, I totally “get” it: a lot of people cherish myths. However, if you cherish myths, there is a definite tendency to HATE inconvenient FACTS which challenge (or refute) those myths.
Oddly enough, Ayn Rand had something to say about htat, which I find pretty profound:
“Christopher Columbus” inadvertently happened to stumble across an island which was already inhabited, after which he proceeded to basically enslave, expropriate, terrorize and slaughter fairly large numbers of the inhabitants, to the point where even the his backers in Spain finally had to fire his ass:
Following his first voyage, Columbus was appointed Viceroy and Governor of the Indies under the terms of the Capitulations of Santa Fe. In practice, this primarily entailed the administration of the colonies in the island of Hispaniola, whose capital was established in Santo Domingo. By the end of his third voyage, Columbus was physically and mentally exhausted, his body wracked by arthritis and his eyes by ophthalmia. In October 1499, he sent two ships to Spain, asking the Court of Spain to appoint a royal commissioner to help him govern.
By this time, accusations of tyranny and incompetence on the part of Columbus had also reached the Court. Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand responded by removing Columbus from power and replacing him with Francisco de Bobadilla, a member of the Order of Calatrava. Bobadilla, who ruled as governor from 1500 until his death in a storm in 1502, had also been tasked by the Court with investigating the accusations of brutality made against Columbus. Arriving in Santo Domingo while Columbus was away in the explorations of his third voyage, Bobadilla was immediately met with complaints about all three Columbus brothers: Christopher, Bartolomeo, and Diego. A recently discovered report by Bobadilla alleges that Columbus regularly used torture and mutilation to govern Hispaniola. The 48-page report, found in 2006 in the state archive in the Spanish city of Valladolid, contains testimonies from 23 people, including both enemies and supporters of Columbus, about the treatment of colonial subjects by Columbus and his brothers during his seven-year rule.
According to the report, Columbus once punished a man found guilty of stealing corn by having his ears and nose cut off and then selling him into slavery. Testimony recorded in the report claims that Columbus congratulated his brother Bartolomeo on “defending the family” when the latter ordered a woman paraded naked through the streets and then had her tongue cut out for suggesting that Columbus was of lowly birth. The document also describes how Columbus put down native unrest and revolt; he first ordered a brutal crackdown in which many natives were killed and then paraded their dismembered bodies through the streets in an attempt to discourage further rebellion. “Columbus’s government was characterised by a form of tyranny,” Consuelo Varela, a Spanish historian who has seen the document, told journalists. “Even those who loved him [Columbus] had to admit the atrocities that had taken place.”
Because of their gross mismanagement of governance, Columbus and his brothers were arrested and imprisoned upon their return to Spain from the third voyage. They lingered in jail for six weeks before busy King Ferdinand ordered their release. Not long after, the king and queen summoned the Columbus brothers to the Alhambra palace in Granada. In Granada, the royal couple heard the brothers’ pleas; restored their freedom and wealth; and, after much persuasion, agreed to fund Columbus’s fourth voyage. But the door was firmly shut on Columbus’s role as governor. Henceforth Nicolás de Ovando y Cáceres was to be the new governor of the West Indies.
Quite frankly, I can understand why the “Objectivist Movement” has a massive hard-on for Columbus: Ayn Rand was ALSO a pretentious hack, who receives wholly undeserved credit for the achievements of others.
How many of the essays in “her” books were actually authored by the Nathaniel Branden, Leonard Peikoff, Allan Greenspan, Mary Ann Sures, etc.?