Opinion

Why We Celebrate Christopher Columbus

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Posted: Jul 08, 2020 12:01 AM
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Why We Celebrate Christopher Columbus

Source: AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

In a shocking twist of the ensuing statue crisis ripping this nation apart, Republican senators Ron Johnson (R-WI) and James Lankford (R-OK) quietly introduced legislation last week to remove the national Christopher Columbus federal holiday. No doubt they were cowardly kowtowing to the political pressure of the times.  In doing so though they have done a great disservice to this country and have given the rioters, vandals, and revisionist historians an unmerited moral victory.  

As has been previously reported, numerous Columbus monuments have been desecrated, beheaded, or outright torn down illegally and purposefully by vandals – everywhere from Baltimore, MD over the 4th of July weekend, to Richmond, VA last month, and many other cities.  

In Columbus, Ohio, Columbus is not even sacred anymore.  The City of Columbus’ Democrat mayor Andrew Gunther recently announced that the prominent statue of Columbus in front of City Hall would be removed – in the city which was named after Christopher Columbus!  In “cancelling” the Columbus statue, the mayor announced:

“For many people in our community, the statue represents patriarchy, oppression and divisiveness. That does not represent our great city, and we will no longer live in the shadow of our ugly past,” said Mayor Gunther. “Now is the right time to replace this statue with artwork that demonstrates our enduring fight to end racism and celebrate the themes of diversity and inclusion.”

It seems that every year we celebrate Columbus Day, there is an unfortunate need to remind Americans why we celebrate Christopher Columbus in the first place.  Since our schools refuse to teach history with proper context and sufficient nuance, it is important to remember why we celebrate Columbus the explorer and his great achievements.

Everyone knows the story of Columbus and his crew setting sail in the year 1492 in search of a western trade sea route to India, and instead discovers the New World.  They did this with Herculean bravery as many feared they would sail off the ends of the earth.

Columbus sailed four times between the years of 1492-1502 and helped establish and document routes to the Americas, and began the enduring relationship between the world’s most influential landmasses in modern history.  It was because of his discovery that emboldened explorers from Europe and around the world to seek out a new life in a new land.

While not the first to discover the Americas (Leif Erickson is credited for discovering North America in the 11th century), it began a period of brave western exploration, migration, international trade, the spreading of Christianity, and would ultimately lead to the greatest democratic creation in human history.

While Columbus Day was celebrated annually in the United States unofficially all the way back to colonial times, it was not formally recognized as a national holiday until 1937, during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt.  It has since not only become a patriotic American holiday, but also one that is celebrated as a day of pride and heritage by Italian-Americans, as Columbus’ ancestry was Italian.  

It should also be noted that Columbus Day is not just celebrated in America but all around the world as an expression of human flourishing, exploration, and patriotism.  Many countries in Latin America also celebrate it as the “Die de la Raza” – the “Day of the Races,” and in Spain as the “Día de la Hispanidad,” and have erected numerous statues and monuments recognizing Columbus and his spirit of exploration.

Around the time of the 500th anniversary celebration of Columbus’ voyage in 1992, some historians began implicating Columbus in a series of calamities that befell much of the indigenous American populations.  The historian primarily given credit for Columbus’ fall from grace is Howard Zinn, author of The People’s History of the United States.

Zinn was an outspoken socialist and his text has become required reading in many high schools and colleges around the country.  To any fair-minded person who has read this book, it’s an incomplete and outright Marxist interpretation of American history which rarely, if ever, attempts to portray a fair and balanced portrayal of American history – especially with Columbus whom he attacks in its first chapter.   

(Note: I’d strongly encourage you to read Dr. Larry Schweikert’s powerful counter book – The Patriot’s History of the United States).   

But even the most ardent supporters of Columbus would admit that his exploration had unintended consequences.  It’s fair to say that European migration to the Americas brought widespread disease, the slave trade, and elicited poor treatment towards the natives, some at the hand of Columbus himself.

While not excusing any of the negative consequences of Columbus’ arrival to the Americas, it’s important to remember that many important historical figures are replete with contradictions.  Judging them now through a modern, “woke” social justice lens fails to fully understand the historical nuance, context, and manner in time, and cannot cancel his historical achievements, as I detailed about George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in my recent piece about Mt. Rushmore

We need to teach history – not destroy it.  The “cancel culture” left is doing its best to not only cancel Columbus, but indoctrinate our students with this poison.  Instead of debating and discussing in the classroom or in the legislature, the vandals that profess openness, fairness, diversity, and inclusion are not even allowing a debate.  Instead they are using force, intimidation, vandalism, and fear to silence their opposition.  This should never be rewarded.

Maybe we should just create a Leif Erikson Day, and celebrate the real individual who discovered the Americas.  But then again, he was white and a Viking.  I’m not sure if the politically correct mob would like this one either.


Christopher N. Malagisi is based in Washington, D.C. and is currently the Executive Director of Outreach for Hillsdale College | Washington, D.C. Campus, but expresses these views in his own personal capacity. He previously served as CPAC Director & Director of External Relations at the American Conservative Union, and as Editor in Chief of Salem Media’s Conservative Book Club.