Christopher Columbus Makes Me Pray For Rain
I for one shamelessly lend my support to any event that demands a day off work, inspires people to celebrate and make music, and brings together large numbers of beautiful women with long dark hair, olive skin, and deep green eyes. However, once my id stops panting, the super-ego invariably steps up to pee on this parade.
Columbus Day pays homage to Italian-American heritage, culture, food, and music, offering an excellent excuse to rejoice and have a damn good time. The only thing wrong with this picture is that it includes Christopher Columbus as its source of inspiration. If ever you look beyond the mythology of your 10th grade course in World History, you’ll quickly discover that Chris does not live up to his enthusiastic press.
An ambitious profiteer, Columbus told tales of great wealth, and returned to the New World in 1495, eager to reward investors who bankrolled a much larger second expedition comprising 17 ships and 1200 men. C.C’s journal chronicles the hunt for slaves and gold. His men routinely took women and children for sex and labor. Raiding parties captured many slaves but thousands died in captivity. Desperate to pay back dividends, Columbus ordered inhabitants over the age of 14 in the province of Cicao, Haiti to collect a quantity of gold every three months. Those who fulfilled the mandate received a copper token to wear about their necks. Inhabitants found without this token had their hands chopped off and bled to death. The scarcity of gold forced natives to flee, only to be hunted down with dogs and murdered.
Whole villages fled in terror before these expeditions. Spaniards liked to hang their uncooperative captives or burn them to death. The Arawak nation chose cassava poison and mass suicide over enslavement, rape, torture, and starvation. Small wonder they killed their own infants to spare them from capture. In two short years half of the 250,000 Indians on Haiti had died through suicide, murder or mutilation. By 1650 none of the Arawaks or their descendants remained on Haiti.
Enjoy the party and parade, but don’t be afraid to look behind the giant curtain. Commemorating Christopher Columbus as a courageous explorer and proud visionary through marching bands, banners and speeches is like holding a giant “Hooray For Hitler” gala bash. Celebrities of German-American extract (I nominate David Hasslehoff as Grand Marshall) wave energetically at throngs of excited onlookers bedecked in Swastikas and the black and red of the Third Reich. Local politicians arrive to pander to this important constituency. Countless booths hawk trinkets and souvenirs bearing the image of our hero, Adolf, whose uncompromising foresight and divine entitlement changed our world forever. And you can bet your bratwurst that corporate sponsors will arrive in droves to set up huge displays and beer gardens.
Columbus: “Thus the eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His way over apparent impossibilities.”