Columbus Day celebration and controversy

By Stepha Poulin and By Stepha Poulin

Christopher Columbus. That name may remind you of a day off school. However, the name might evoke feelings of hatred in some.

Across New England and other parts of the United States, vandals have been spray-painting statues of Columbus in acts of protest. I can agree that Christopher Columbus did some horrible things, but we’re about 511 years late to the “hating Columbus party.”

After his death in 1506, homes of the indigenous people he invaded were left completely altered. Columbus did influence the course of American history, even if he doesn’t deserve credit for it. He was simply born in the right place at the right time, like many historical figures.

Those against Columbus or Columbus Day aren’t wrong.

He was a man that never finished his original mission. Columbus never intended to usher in colonialism. Actually, he was trying to find a way to Asia. Trade routes during the time of Columbus had high tariffs, so Columbus intended to find a new route.

Sadly, this never came to be. Columbus ended up getting lost several times. Mistakes during navigation left him thinking he was in Japan; however, he was really in modern day Haiti. Eventually, Columbus gave up on Asia, and his additional colonization attempts incited violence amongst the natives.

Columbus looked down on the natives. According to Hanke L. Bourne, Columbus said:

“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 heart.”

The quote sounds nice at times, but it shows how Columbus (and those paying him) could easily take advantage of natives. I’d argue this was Columbus’ greatest, and worst, discovery.

Columbus was born during the “Age of Discovery.” However, we now know explorers like Columbus didn’t really deserve the credit.

If Columbus knew he was being hailed as the “discoverer” of the Americas, he would probably be angry. The man still believed he traveled to eastern Asia until the day he died.

Even if Columbus failed more often than not, his actions forever changed America and Europe. The modern remnants of those actions should not be ignored, celebrated or defaced.

The way I look at it, criticizing people who are long gone won’t produce any change. Facts get hidden by time and shifting cultures, and the future is all we can feasibly alter.

Instead of defacing a statue of Columbus, people should learn more about the environment that produced a man like Columbus. We can easily learn from the past, but we cannot change the past through vandalism.