Monday, October 10, 2011

Today I Celebrated Columbus Day.

This may be a controversial post.  It depends on where you get your information, I think.  It may be totally meaningless or completely meaningful, based on where you are located.  It will probably sound argumentative.  That's because it is.  My sister and I have been going back and forth, on Facebook, with a friend and the friend of a friend about whether Columbus was an evil, cruel, wicked man or a good, upright, brave man who changed history (for the better) with his choices.

These are the thoughts I put on Facebook and since it IS Columbus Day here in the USA, I thought I'd share with you too. 

(the columbus monument in barcelona, spain.  stock photo.)

It is my belief and opinion that God had a hand in the discovery (rediscovery, if you will) of this American continent and in the establishment of the US. To bring this about He inspired and guided men (despite all their faults and the less than upright cultures from which they came) to lay the groundwork and make it happen.

I see no reason to be upset with Columbus, the conquistadors, or other such “invaders.” They weren’t doing anything different than what the indigenous peoples had been doing to each other for centuries (though, I have yet to read anything about Columbus personally causing violence to anyone). The Europeans were simply more advanced and civilized. There is no reason to be mad at them because they were better at playing the game. Why hold them up to our standards? Their lives, rules, way of doing things were nothing like ours. We weren’t there to show them a “better way”. To condemn them is completely unfair. Given the governments and rulers they had to work with, I’d say they did a pretty good job. Makes me wonder if our descendants will read about us (or re-write the history books on us) and think we were barbaric and loathsome.

Columbus and others like him were the ones who made it possible for the United States of America to be born. They literally paved the way. The Vikings and Maoris may have got there first, but that point is moot since they didn’t have the culture to make something of a new world. They didn’t send settlers, pilgrims or the like. While some of us may have Viking, or Native American heritage, most of us have European, African, or Spanish ancestors to thank for getting us here. Like it or not, Columbus is part of that.

If we read the journals of Columbus (and those of his contemporaries), we find that it was Columbus’ faith that was his primary motive. He believed that he was guided by God. I believe it too. The histories that I have read show him to be kind, courageous, daring, honest, pious, self-taught, and stubborn. I’d call these good characteristics and worth emulating.

Why scoff that he thought he had hit the Indies? He had no idea there was a whole other continent between him and Asia. Again, it makes no sense to hold anyone of that age to our standards and knowledge. You can thank Columbus that you don’t currently think there is only ocean between the west coast of Europe and the east Coast of Asia.

I haven’t been able to find anything about genocide or abuse (perhaps those stories were written more recently?). I did read about natives attacking and killing the men that Columbus had left behind at La Navidad. For a quick, interesting and slightly disturbing look at the types of people the Europeans met when they got to the Americas, see Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. I suggest using a filter like Clearplay though, since it is very graphic!

(close up of part of the columbus monument. stock photo.)

As to Columbus being sent back to Spain in chains, that unfortunate happening was due to the jealousy of the governor of the new colony. It was humiliating for Columbus and completely unjust. When he did get back to Spain, it was clear the charges were false and he was immediately released.

It would seem that even though Columbus is long gone, there are still false accusations being brought against him (though, for what purpose I do not know). After reading his journals and writings, it is clear to me that he was a man who knew God and stayed close to Him.

If anyone would like to know more about Columbus, I’d suggest going to the source (after all, would you like to be the one to tell your story, or would you like strangers or your enemies to paint it how they want it told?). Book of Prophecies was put together by Columbus with the help of Father Gaspar Gorrico. Excellent insights. Other good resources are The Life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus by His Son Ferdinand, The Worlds of Christopher Columbus, by William and Carla Phillips and Columbus, and Don Quixote of the Seas, by Jacob Wassermann. For kids I highly recommend, Columbus by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire.

The discovery of Columbus opened doors and windows for countless people. Others had tried to get to the Indies as Columbus had attempted and never got far enough to find land. I believe that the choices of even one individual can have worldwide effects. What if Columbus hadn’t discovered America? Where would you be? London? Sweden? Africa? South America? What would your life be like? What if Columbus’ discovery was the only way the Pilgrims could eventually leave England and gain religious freedom? What if our ideas of freedom only could have come about the in ways they did? That would mean that Columbus was a vital part of the lifestyle we all love and adore. One person can change the lives of countless people. What if Eve never ate that fruit? What if Noah never got on the Ark? What if Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin never fought for their rights (and the rights of others)? What if Mother Theresa decided to sit at home and live a comfy life? What if Hitler had never been born (negative examples work too)? What if Bill Gates believed those who told him it couldn’t be done? What if Martin Luther King, Jr. never spoke up and out? What if Galileo allowed the Catholic Church to decide what he could or could not believe/study/teach? What if Queen Elizabeth I had been the typical woman of her day?

Obviously, I’m coming at this with not only what I’ve learned from history books (not the popular ideas of my time), but also my religious beliefs. And since the Book of Mormon (which I have found to be true) states this about Columbus, “[Nephi] looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land,” I believe God moved Columbus because He had a purpose in making this land known to the Europeans. Columbus was obedient and courageous in that he followed the direction and guidance he received from Heavenly Father and set out for the Indies. This is why I celebrate Columbus Day, and why I will always encourage my family and friends to do the same.


blueviolet said...

This was actually really informative, as some of it I hadn't heard before. I tend to think along the same lines you do though. It's not fair to judge the happenings of long ago interest within the context of modern day times. There's nothing in our history that could stand up to that kind of scrutiny.

Silver Strands said...

Well said Jamie. It's a tough subject for all the reasons you stated ... but I also have a testimony of the Book of Mormon - and that clarifies it all for me. Whenever our family gets into discussions about politics, I find myself going to the scriptures to try to calm the conversation. It helps :)

Saimi said...

I couldn't agree with you more! I think Columbus was guided and directed through God, whether he knew it or not, it was meant to be.

Thanks for posting this!

Amy said...

Awesome post, Jamie!!
I totally agree. I don't understand why history has to paint these people in such a negative light.

MommyMert said...

Wow, look at you going all scholastic and such... Well written and informative. Thanks for the heads up.

Anonymous said...

I think that was written really well. I learned a lot. I'm ashamed to say I don't know too much about Columbus I'm pretty sure I had tests on it back in grade school but that was many moons ago. I have seen a lot of negative comments on facebook about Columbus day but I don't pay it much mind.

KBoo said...

Your post made my day, lol. :)

Charlotte (Life's a Charm!) said...

Thanks for the history lesson! of course i know columbus but so much less than most people. (I am very poor on World and American history.) I love learning about history, but I wish that history, when told in channels and books, should be based more on facts not speculations.

alissa4illustration said...

My husband has been arguing with me about this day. He's researched and found out that Columbus and his men raped and killed Native Americans. I haven't read what he's read. I don't feel like I can judge. Plus a lot of bad things happen. I feel like we should as a society forgive certain events. I'm sure back in the day some slave owners were good. It was common place to own one, even though it wasn't right.

My husband also got annoyed with me because I bought popcorn from a Boy Scout. They do not support people that are gay or atheist. We have friends that are both. We also have friends that are conservative christens and others that are extremely environmental. When I bought the popcorn, I thought about the boy at the door, who needed money for camping and such. Not the closed minded organization.

I am glad that I'm married to someone that is in fact passionate about such subjects.