Today is Columbus Day. Growing up it was an important holiday but now Columbus is being derided for all of his various faults. My son, who is in the 8th grade and has an extremely inspiring history teacher, came home and told me that “Mrs. M does not think we should celebrate Columbus Day.” He went on to tell me that Leif Erickson actually discovered America and that Columbus spread disease and tortured Native Americans.
What he didn’t say was that Columbus also demanded tribute from the Indians, stole their gold, enslaved some of the Indians and brought them back to Spain as objects of curiosity. He also didn’t discuss the brutality and all of the other negative things that can be brought up about Columbus. Thank heavens!
Those who pooh-pooh Columbus bring up the fact that most educated Europeans in the late 15th century knew that the world was a sphere and not flat. But the fact was, like the great inventors and explorers of humanity, Columbus took theoretical knowledge and applied it. Yes, there were some professors in the universities of the time talking about astronomy and geography, and postulating a variety of theories. Columbus took that theory and said that he was going to discover a shorter route from Europe to India to get at the spices, gold and other valuable items less expensively and safer than going around the Cape of Africa. While the intelligentsia was simply talking, Columbus was doing.
Leif Erickson, obviously a great Viking explorer, went from Northern Europe to North America more than 400 years before Columbus. He simply went home and did nothing about it. On the other hand Columbus, not only the adventurer and explorer, knew that he had to go home to Spain with something. He gathered the gold that he could find, capture a few Native Americans, and returned to Spain which caused a rapidly spreading conflagration of enthusiasm for the “New World.” Without Columbus, it might have been centuries before the eventual exploration and settlements in North America would take place.
After Columbus came a variety of explorers from Portugal, Spain, France and England. Eventually the English settlements prospered and after a Revolution (and the 2nd revolution known as the “War of 1812”) we had our great country, the United States of America. It is true that the founding fathers, yes all men, did not invent the idea of representative government, were imperfect by allowing slavery, and made many compromises. But with the Articles of Confederation, and eventually the Constitution, they implemented the ideas of freedom and the rights of the individual versus the right of the king or a government. As Thomas Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence, “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” It was not a king that created these rights. It was not a government that created these rights, rather these rights were the natural rights of men and some of these rights were delegated from men and given to the government. These were not new ideas for their time, yet like Christopher Columbus, these men took the ideas and made them practical and implemented them.
Yes it is true that many of the other great Americans came up with ideas, but more importantly implemented those ideas. Thomas Edison did not invent electricity. He did not even invent the concept of a light bulb. He just made it work and made it practical for industry and eventually for individuals.
Orville and Wilbur Wright did not invent heavier than air flight. There were many professors and thinkers who had all types of theories and postulations concerning flight. The Wright brothers simply implemented it in their flights at Kitty Hawk The automobile was not invented by Ford. There were many automobiles in existence, but they were all individually handcrafted luxury items. Ford took the ideas of the automobile and worked on manufacturing to make an inexpensive Model T which eventually made automobiles available to every American, and much of the world.
The computer was not invented by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, they just made it practical for individual businesses and home users to have all the benefits of computers. This is spread around the world and is change the lives in the direction of humanity forever.
Yes it is true that our government has expanded far beyond the grounds envisioned by the Founding Fathers and outlined in the Constitution. Yes it is true that the same people who protested England’s half percent tax on tea are probably rolling in their graves that most Americans are paying 50% of their income in a variety of federal, state and local taxes. They could never imagine a government so large that a shutdown of some of the agencies would cause economic dislocations and concern around the world. They could never imagine that average Americans would not be up in arms protesting over the loss of freedom, individuality and the increased government control caused by ObamaCare.
Yes, if Christopher Columbus did not decide to embark upon his adventure we would not have these problems. So when you see the news, instead of celebrating Columbus, we should blame it all on him!