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My Personal Reflections on Columbus Day Festivities

To condemn Columbus for using slaves is like condemning ourselves today for using gasoline cars while still knowing that it's destructive to the atmosphere

A painting imagining Columbus arriving in the New World.

Today being Columbus Day, I would like to express my personal opinion on this commemoration.

Despite the false and malignant attributes many people attach to Christopher Columbus today–many even contemptuously distancing themselves from him– only Italian Americans still admire and remain by the side of  “the Admiral of the Ocean Sea.” It was his unquestioned courage, intelligence and perseverance that caused him to sail the uncharted Atlantic Ocean, landing on the morning of October 12th 1492 on a new continent, yet unknown to three fourths of the world’s population.

The Europeans did not know that the American Continents existed; the vast Asian Continent, including the Celestial China, did not know it then; nor did Africa imagine that there was land on the other side of the Ocean; and neither did Native Americans have any clue. Stubborn Columbus alone united the human race that had been separated for millennia. Only this event calls for honoring Christopher Columbus by us all.

Despite what they say today, Christopher Columbus did not personally kill any single person, neither in Europe nor in the Caribbean Islands. Nonetheless, he was taken in chains to Spain by a Spaniard usurper who was eventually stripped of his honor and position by the Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, ordering him to return Columbus’s stolen goods: including a horse, chickens and the wine he had drunk without authority while occupying Columbus’ house. The king, as a reward, granted Columbus another voyage to discover new lands. As King Ferdinand did restore Christopher Columbus’ honor, so should we also return to Columbus the dignity and prestige he so amply deserves.

We cannot ignore that extreme and horrific violence was perpetrated upon a people who just happened to be there; but this violence cannot be attributed to Columbus, but to the times. Ironically, we fight yesteryear violence, when we practice even today more inhumane and atrocious violence upon ourselves, like the concentration camps of Germany, Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Burundi.  You cannot forget that Columbus had power invested in him by the king of Spain, to judge and punish, even to death, the people who violated the rules of the Spanish law. In all of Bartolomé de las Casas’ writings, and that of others who were witnesses at the time, you will find that Columbus, as the judge of the colony, only punished Spaniards, not natives. Several times he praised the natives’ physical features and behavior. Columbus even adopted a native Taíno as his son.

With regard to the slavery issue, we must never forget that it was legal to buy and sell people at that time.  The practice had been in use for millennia by everybody, including Native Americans in Mexico and elsewhere.  Besides, slavery is not a mortal sin, only a temporary condition: the Britons became slaves under the Romans, Jewish people were slaves under the Egyptians. Slaves from all over the Roman Empire were brought to the Italian peninsula to become eventual Roman citizens. Blacks were brought to America as slaves. What is new under the sun? Why be so resentful today? Worse yet, why accuse Columbus on slavery and atrocities when most of these acts were perpetrated on the natives and blacks by Spaniards at the time, as well as the English and Dutch?

Conditions have changed for the better in these fields. Thankfully, at least officially, we have no more slaves. We should all acknowledge and rejoice for it. Besides, if we should condemn Columbus for using slaves, then we should condemn ourselves today for using gasoline cars, especially because we do know and are conscious of the fact that every time we use a car, we are polluting the atmosphere we breathe and causing very destructive atmospheric conditions. Notwithstanding, we still use them. Do not throw stones against someone, especially if you live in a glass house yourself.

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