Christopher Columbus is known to kindergarteners as a hero and to the more educated members of society as a mass murderer with a fervent disrespect for anyone different from the white Europeans he knew. I mean sure, he discovered America. And, of course, his discovery gave the Founding Fathers a place to create this great nation. However, Columbus didn’t actually discover America. The Native Americans discovered America. I’d like to give Columbus some more brownie points; I think he actually deserve these ones. I think it would be reasonable to say that Columbus set us off on a certain path that we might still be on.
Some of Columbus’ earliest policies can be seen in the Constitution. For example, we did not write anything into the Constitution to help the Native Americans. In fact, we allowed the murder and abuse of Native Americans, which started when Christopher Columbus got the notion to sail the ocean blue in 1492, to continue. At the time of the American Revolution, we had a sense of us that did not include the Native Americans or any other minorities. The “us” the Constitution benefited consisted primarily of white landowners. Columbus, I think, introduced the idea of slavery to the New World; when he captured the first group of Native Americans, he opened the doors to hundreds of years of slavery in the New World. Now, we say that slavery is horrible, but that’s not what everyone was thinking at the time the Constitution was written. Actually, at that time, the delegates decided not to address the slavery issue immediately; instead, they chose to pick up discussions concerning the abolition of slavery in twenty years. This was the Twenty Year Compromise. At the time, the states could not afford to lose the little unity they had and some states’ economies, primarily Virginia and Georgia, heavily relied on slaves has their chief source of labor. If ignoring the topic of slavery would allow the states to become united and grow their economies, then wasn’t it worth procrastination? Wouldn’t the ends justify the means?
I think we also adopted Columbus’ invasion techniques. Except, now, we don’t claim land for Spain; we claim it for democracy. While the American government does not send in independent groups of people to conquer other people by any means necessary, we do send in soldiers and diplomats to help Americanize other nations. In a way, we’ve gone full circle. America started with Europeans conquering the natives and colonizing. The Europeans believed that anyone, that did not think or live the way they did, was a barbarian. We wouldn’t call the people of third world countries barbarians to their faces, but isn’t that kind of what we’re thinking when we send in people to reform their governments? In a way, we are declaring that they are not civilized enough to develop without us; this doesn’t help them in the long run. I believe that, in order to reform a government, one must experiment. You need to find what does and does not work for your country. If we force them to change a certain way, these new governments will collapse because there wasn’t a time for everyone to rally around a particular idea. By basically taking over other countries, I fear that we are becoming the very thing we rebelled against.
I also believe that when we rebelled, we were kind of rebelling against Columbus. Even though he didn’t harm us, he symbolized the kind of oppression the patriots were trying escape. So how does the American government have so many qualities that are shared with the mass murderer that discovered America on accident?
Chapter One and Nine of the American Pageant