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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Devil's Advocate:

By Editorial Staff

Columbus: explorer or oppressor?

Hannah Hayes' view:
It is important to look at historical roots and see how the origins of the United States affect what it is today. As a holiday, Columbus Day must be examined and, in the opinion of this columnist, abolished. The first state celebration of Columbus Day was in Colorado in 1905, at the bidding of the Knights of Columbus, and the holiday should end in Colorado.

Columbus is the Latinized version of the name Columbo which means dove. Things might be very different today if Christopher had come to this land with a dove of peace in his hands.

While his legacy in the Jefferson County School curriculum is one of an explorer, it should be noted that Columbus' early travels were motivated by the search for slaves and greed for gold. Historical Spanish archives that resurfaced in 2005 yielded a report from his successor, Francisco de Bobadilla that recounts Columbus' governorship in the New World as tyrannical. The atrocities that Bobadilla said were inflicted upon settlers are horrifying.

Most significant, however, is a look at Columbus' legacy with the treatment of indigenous populations. These are recounted in Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States." Zinn offers the opportunity to view this country through wholly different eyes, and his book has been suggested as required reading for all students. Schools have been misleading us about Columbus since the advent of public education, but it's time to wake up and smell the crimes against humanity that occurred when Europeans first came here. Native Americans were abused, exploited and victimized by genocide.

When a population is already residing in a newly "discovered" land that land can't really be discovered, Columbus Day commemorates fiction not fact. Tradition when founded on righteous glory warms the heart. When it is instituted upon the misery of others, we should turn our backs on it. A group of activists did just that in the streets of Denver as the Columbus Day parade marched through a few years ago. It was powerful. People are changing the momentum of an outdated holiday. The struggle to abolish it continues.

What will it take to make the next step happen? Apathy can only lead to further humiliation. Undoing an unjust holiday can provide a foundation for change that honors the brilliant indigenous culture that resided in these lands long before Columbus made us blue in 1492.

In revisionist historical style, Columbus later cited the conversion of "non-believers" as a reason for his continued explorations, as he was unable to understand the American Indian lifestyles. Columbus believed divine voices spoke to him about a plan that would lead to the Last Judgment and the end of the world. These words have an eerie echo throughout history.

Columbus Day should be stripped from our calendar and replaced with a day to honor a union of cultural diversity and the true roots of this country.

Kelly Weist's view:
The official website for the Columbus Day protesters, "Transform Columbus Day," states that their coalition is based on "mutual respect," and they describe themselves as "people of conscience." Of course, free speech for those who disagree with their premise is not contained in their principles.

This group insists that Christopher Columbus is the start of all oppression against "indigenous peoples" and claims a history and legacy for him that is contrary to established scholarship.

How is this "mutual respect"? Their version of the truth is forced on everyone, and the rest of us get no say in it at all. These are not scholars, who look at all aspects of history and talk about the good and the bad (which are often the same thing), but activists, who have an agenda. Their agenda is to force American society to put them first. It's all about prioritization, and in this case, they envision a world where they are the arbiters of moral authority. If you are not an indigenous people, or a person of color, or a member of an oppressed people, then you do not get to speak, you don't get to have any say in how our society and government are run, and you just need to bow your head and accept it. It's the new cultural warfare.

The history of Columbus and all explorers has been one of a clash of cultures. Cultures that existed in lands that were subsequently discovered by other, more sophisticated cultures were often impacted adversely by disease, war and famine; the funny thing is that it went both ways. Disease, war and famine visited the "discovering" cultures as well, but the activists don't want to acknowledge that. Instead, they want to rewrite history in such a way to as to force political correctness on all of us.

The only things we're allowed to talk about under their "newspeak" is how awful Columbus was, how he initiated the greatest genocide in history, and how our American culture today is no different.

Genocide takes intent. You have to really want to obliterate a group of people, erase them from the face of the Earth. Think of the Holocaust, or the current jihad by Islamofascists. So even if the charges they level against Columbus are true, which they aren't, it isn't genocide.

The Columbus Day activists take the tactics of violence to oppose a harmless little parade in Denver. Italian-Americans have taken a minor holiday as their own in order to cut loose a little, and they are attacked, spit on and portrayed as racists for celebrating their history. Very few historical figures can live up to the standards these activists have set, not even those they claim as their heroes.

Getting your message out is one thing; physically attacking the others who have a different message and demanding that society only do what you tell it to is outrageous. No matter what you think your moral authority is.


There are 11 federal holidays. Three honor four men: Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Christopher Columbus. If the focus of Columbus Day is a celebration of Italian culture and heritage, where are the days for Armenians, Indonesians, or Rastafarians? Other cultures have observances, but they are neither federal holidays nor are they named after suspect heroes.

Howard Zinn writes, "To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to deemphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves—unwittingly—to justify what was done. …But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress—that is still with us."

Who judges cultural sophistication? Are they the ones who kill and destroy or the injured parties?

The island of Hispaniola went from a population of three million in 1494 to 60,000 in 1508. People perished from war, slavery and harsh work in mines. If you don't want to call that intentional genocide, would you rather call cause for celebration?

The truth of this invasion is known. It is up to us to respond. Abolishing Columbus Day isn't about warfare; it's about making peace with our past.

A former educator, Hannah Hayes is a wife, mother and third-generation immigrant. She runs a national business in the natural products industry and is a co-founder of Evergreen Peace.

Let's address Hannah's citation of Howard Zinn's "A People's Guide to the United States." Howard Zinn's goal with this tome is to destroy Americans' understanding of their country's core values and philosophy and substitute rank untruths. Putting this book on reading lists is a travesty. Even with all our faults, the United States is a nation and a system that transcends all others. "The People's Guide to the United States" ignores any good coming from the U.S. or its values and asserts many falsities about the U.S. Citing this book automatically puts Hannah's arguments in doubt, and the imposition of 21st-century values on 15th-century historical figures is ridiculous. Fifteenth-century explorers of any nationality were interested in gold, natural resources and slaves, yes, because these were the commodities that were saleable at the time. Financing a voyage, in Columbus' case through Queen Isabella of Spain, was based on a return on the investment, not on some 21st-century notion of peace and enlightenment. Why don't the Columbus Day protesters spend some time protesting Queen Isabella or the Spanish nation? Because it doesn't serve their political agenda. Don't be fooled by their outrageous assertions, or by Zinn's absurdities.

Attorney and political activist Kelly Weist has served on the board of directors of the Colorado Federation of Republican Women and is the co-founder of Mountain Republican Women. She is an adjunct professor of political science at Metropolitan State College of Denver.

Reader Comments

Weist can't touch Zinn's arguments, apparently, so she dismisses the whole book as biased. Nice trick if you can get away with it. Columbus didn't kill and enslave Indians accidentally, he did it intentionally. So did his fellow conquerors and slavers. Priests such as Bartolome de las Casas argued that the Spaniards were violating their Christian morality at the time. This has nothing to do with 21st-century values and everything to do with timeless values. See Those Evil European Invaders for how the Europeans knew they were doing evil but did it anyway.

posted by Rob Schmidt on September 28, 2006 1:34pm

To Kelly Weist, Why should we honor any person whose ideology is to take land, to take property, and to enslave people, regardless of the then prevelent ideology? Read history, including: (a) Trail of Tears, (b) Chittington's Massacre in 1864, in which Chittington justified the slaughter of children with 'nits make lice.' (c) Quote of William Tecumseh Sherman that "the only good indian is a dead indian.' (d) Battle of the Washita in 1868 when Custer attacked even though Black Kettle and Dull Knife were showing a truce flag. Honoring Columbus is as repulsive as honoring Andrew Jackson, William Tecumseh Sherman, Chittington or George Armstrong Custer.

posted by Don Williams on September 28, 2006 6:54am

Related links
This ain't no party:  a Columbus Day rant

Readers respond
"I found [the 'pro-Columbus' summary] so weak that I began to wonder if it was a sort of straw-man put up by anti-Columbians."

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