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Christopher Columbus:

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The Christian Crusades had ended in 1291, the Black Death had been deliberately blamed on innocent Jews who said what their Christian torturers forced them to, that they poisoned water wells, causing the Black Death.

Crossposted at Native American Netroots &


Of course, the real cause was in the stomachs of fleas, not planetary alignment, earthquakes, or God's Judgment. Nonetheless, the extermination of European Jews began in 1348 again, along with a key notorious origin of Manifest Destiny.


But no sooner had the plague ceased than we saw the contrary . . . [People] gave themselves up to a more shameful and disordered life than they had led before.... Men thought that, by reason of the fewness of mankind, there should be abundance of all produce of the land; yet, on the contrary, by reason of men's ingratitude, everything came to unwonted scarcity and remained long thus; nay, in certain countries.

Christopher Columbus was born in 1451, barely over a century later in the city - state of Genoa, Italy after the newest Christian Campaign to exterminate the European Jews. Columbus educated himself, and his father was a wool merchant (3). Columbus was a map maker and a sailor in his forties; consequently, he knew that the world was round. What were three of the motivations that led him to set sail on August 3, 1492 on the Pinta, the Nina, and the Santa Maria from the "Southern Spanish port of Palos?" Greed for gold, capitalistic greed through the potential of wealth through the slave trade, and the religious beliefs of Apocalyptic Christianity were three primary motivations Columbus had for setting sail; consequently, which fueled genocide against tens of millions of Indigenous People.

One of Columbus's motivations was greed for gold, which he acquired on the Gold Coast in the Portuguese colony (3).

Christopher Columbus: The Untold Story

Christopher Columbus:

"Gold is most excellent; gold is treasure, and he who possesses it does all he wishes to in this world." [2]

Another of Columbus's motives for making the journey was his capitalistic greed through the potential of wealth through the slave trade, which resulted in more and more slavery because of the desire for sugar and led to the atrocities of the Middle Passage.


Sugar cane was the number one crop that produced the growth for Europe. It was brought to the New World from Spain by Christopher Columbus, later shipped to the rest of Europe. The growing sugar industry called for the usage of African slaves. Also the African slave labor and the plantations are what formed the Americas. The work that was performed on the plantations which, produced large quantities of sugar, created an even greater need for slaves, by the enslaved Africans brought to the Atlantic World by the Middle Passage.

Here is a map that provides a good overview.

The religious beliefs of Apocalyptic Christianity were yet another one of Columbus' motivations for setting sail; consequently, it was the most illogical motivation he possessed. For his greed for gold could be coldly construed as a more practical reason, except for all of the Indigenous People he would in the future have to exterminate to get it, which he probably did not yet know of at the time. He had only ventured to the Gold Coast. His use of the slave trade for monetary gain was illogical enough, for it denied the very humanity of the African People and the Indigenous People that he would force into slavery; however, his beliefs regarding Apocalyptic Christianity were projected outwards towards the entire world.


During those same long centuries they had further expressed their ruthless intolerance of all persons and thugs that were non-Christian by conducting pogroms against the Jews who lived among them and whom they regarded as the embodiment of the Antichrist imposing torture exile and mass destruction on those who refused to succumb to evangelical persuasion.

Columbus was possessed with the obsession that Christ would return only if the Gospel was spread far and wide. Apocalyptic Christianity taught him: that either a savior in human form would prepare the way for Christ to return in the midst of a war between good and evil and history would end; or, that after the earth suffers dire consequences, evil would increase while love would decrease, then Christ would return with the Final Judgment and end history; or, that a period of peace would precede the Final Judgment. During this "period of peace," the Jews would be converted, while "the heathens would be either converted or annihilated." I think the latter best reflects Columbus's personal view of Apocalyptic Christianity. I will state why after a couple less known facts in order to set up a contrast.

The Indigenous People very well may have had a much better future then and history now if Christopher Columbus had perished in the Atlantic on February 14, 1493. For the first European to land in America was Leif Ericson, a Viking seaman from Greenland (see Ericson). The ancient sagas give different accounts of this voyage made in the year 1000.

As for contacts of New World peoples with Europe, the sole early ones involved the Norse who occupied Greenland in very small numbers between A.D. 986 and about 1500. But these Norse visits had no discernible impact on Native American societies. (2)

The Norse left "no discernable impact." I cannot answer why that is, except to note that Viking voyages decreased and ended during the slow process of the Christianization of Scandinavia. So by contrast, Columbus had an enormous impact that is more far reaching than he could have imagined. Ironic indeed, since he grossly underestimated the earth's size prior to setting sail. For example, "He thought that Japan lay only three thousand miles from the southern European Coast (3)." He may then have also grossly underestimated the sheer mass numbers of Indigenous Population in the lands he did not first discover in the Americas. No matter though, for such "heathens" would either have to be "converted or annihilated."

To be sure, the real annihilations did not start until the beginning of Columbus' second voyage to the Americas in 1493 (1). For while he had expressed admiration for the overall generosity of Indigenous People (1) and considered the Tainos to be "Very handsome, gentle, and friendly," he interpreted all these positive traits as signs of weakness and vulnerability, saying "if devout religious persons knew the Indian Language well, all these people would soon become Christians (3)." As a consequence, he kidnapped some of the Tainos and took them back to Spain.

It would be easy, he asserted, to "subject everyone and make them do what you wished (3)."

Indeed, he did subject everyone he had the power to subject.


On his second voyage, in December 1494, Columbus captured 1,500 Tainos on the island of Hispaniola and herded them to Isabela, where 550 of ''the best males and females'' were forced aboard ships bound for the slave markets of Seville.

Under Columbus's leadership, the Spanish attacked the Taino, sparing neither men, women nor children. Warfare, forced labor, starvation and disease reduced Hispaniola's Taino population (estimated at one million to two million in 1492) to extinction within 30 years.

Furthermore, Columbus wrote a letter to the Spanish governor of the island, Hispaniola. Columbus asked the governor the cut off the ears and the noses of any of the slaves who resisted being subjugated to slavery.

...It is estimated that 100 million Indians from the Caribbean, Central, South, and North America perished at the hands of the European invaders. Sadly, unbelievably, really, much of that wholesale destruction was sanctioned and carried out by the Roman Catholic Church and various Protestant denominations. (1: p. 37)

Greed for gold, capitalistic greed through the potential of wealth through the slave trade, and the religious beliefs of Apocalyptic Christianity were three primary motivations Columbus had for setting sail. He was successful in his aims, which fueled genocide against tens of millions of Indigenous People. He was successful in promoting and aiding in establishing slavery by bringing sugar to Europe and to the New World from Spain, which created the evil necessity in the eyes of some of humanity's greatest criminals for the Middle Passage, where slaves packed like cargo between decks often had to lie in each other's feces, urine, and blood.

Columbus' "successes," all crimes against humanity, are now more so in these modern times. A day is now in his honor since 1971 (4). That's one success. Here are more of Columbus' "successes" from a book I highly recommend buying.

Unlearning the Language of Conquest: Scholars Expose Anti-Indianism in America (Paperback) by Four Arrows (Don Trent Jacobs) (Editor). p. 237.

As Moyers pointed out, this "mentality" and blind acceptance of biblical inerrancy, which contributed to the genocide of American Indians during Columbus' time, has, in many ways, continued and continues to inform U.S. foreign policy, including its dealings with its own sovereign Indian Nations.

Christopher Columbus :

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(Bold mine)

Christopher Columbus: The Untold Story

"We shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their Highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do all the harm and damage that we can." [11]

Mark Twain:

"History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."


It is astonishing to most Americans that the federal government is still taking Indian land and resources – without due process of law and without fair market compensation, sometimes with no compensation at all. Of course, the Constitution says that Congress may not take anyone’s property except with due process of law and with fair market compensation. But these rules are not applied to most land and resources owned by Indian tribes, and the government takes the land and resources at will. Obviously, this is wrong.

Today, the government is trying to drive Western Shoshone Indians off their homelands in Nevada without a semblance of due process and with a payment of about 15 cents per acre. This is gold mining land, but that doesn’t make it alright to take it from its Indian owners. There are other present day cases. A few years ago, Congress confiscated part of the reservation that was shared by the Yurok Nation in California and turned it over to another tribe. Congress gloated at the time that it could do this without paying compensation because of Congress’ so-called “Plenary Power” over Indians and their property.


(1): Kurt Kaltreider, PH.D. "American Indian Prophecies." pp. 49-57.

(2): Jared Diamond. "Guns, Germs, And Steel." pp. 67, 79.

(3): Norton. Katzman. Escott. Chudacoff. Paterson. Tuttle. "A People & A Nation." pp. 20 - 23.

(4): Four Arrows (Don Trent Jacobs). "Unlearning the Language of Conquest." pp. 20, 236, 31, 275.

Originally posted to Winter Rabbit on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 07:27 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  One of the things that gave me hope (23+ / 0-)

    in the last election was the speech where Obama specifically singled out our horrible ongoing treatment of Native Americans for criticism and reform. I haven't seen anything yet, but I'm holding out hope that for once the Federal Government will try to do the right thing.

    Thanks for the diary. It's an important reminder. Tipped and rec'd.

    "Government is not instituted for the good of the governor, but of the governed; and power is not an advantage, but a burden." --Algernon Sidney

    by James Robinson on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 07:33:05 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for this (19+ / 0-)

    You might also include Columbus' quote, from a letter, in which he boasts of selling sex slaves as young as 9-10 years old.

    I was considering doing a diary on this myself today, but his crimes were so numerous that I finally gave up. Not enough hours in the day.

    Harry Reid: Float like Barney Fife, sting like Aunt Bea.

    by MeMeMeMeMe on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 07:33:18 PM PDT

  •  Every year in school (32+ / 0-)

    My kids would come home with all these "Columbus" worksheets in the days leading up to Columbus Day and a project later.

    I explained to my son, who is part Native American, that Columbus was not a great guy--that he never discovered America, he enslaved people, and treated them badly.

    So my son had to write a short statement in first grade on what Columubus had done. And he wrote that.

    The teacher was very angry and wanted to meet with me and told me I was wrong to teach a young child these "unpleasant" things.

    I told the school that I opposed celebrating Columbus Day and saw nothing in it to celebrate. holding the line against the siege

    by CatM on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 07:34:15 PM PDT

  •  so the wingnuts are taking Columbus (7+ / 0-)

    out if the textbooks, right? Not exactly a model Christian.

    Dennis Kucinich was right.

    by lisastar on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 07:37:13 PM PDT

  •  Jared Diaminds book (4+ / 0-)

    is a load of crap.  He basically says that the europeans just had the natural advantage over the Indians.

    by GlowNZ on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 07:40:15 PM PDT

    •  Yeah, I don't reference that part. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      88kathy, parryander, capelza, Larsstephens

      He psycho analyzes the germs quite well though. I rolled my eyes through that part.

      She nourishes us; that which we put into the ground she returns to us. Big Thunder

      by Winter Rabbit on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 07:42:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  He is saying that the germs decimated, if (9+ / 0-)
        not wiped out, Indians in the Americas before the guns and steel got within 1000 miles.

        20 million decreased by 95%. by 1700.

        Why were the germs on Columbus' boat and not on the shore to meet him?  Because of domesticated large animals.  

        Why didn't the Americas have large domesticated animals?  It has to do with the way the continents are arranged.

        Yes, Columbus was not a good person.  He never could have done what he did without the first wave of germs.  Same with all the others.

        Rouge girl makes America blush.

        by 88kathy on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 07:54:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  True, (9+ / 0-)

          By the time the Spanish started committing genocide, at least 90% of the villages were dead. Problem is, people use that in conjunction with the lie that the lands were uninhabited.

          And the Indigenous population of the so called “New World” has been significantly underestimated "for the area north of the Rio Grande;" also, a consensus of “authority” has not been reached. It is easier to sidestep the fact by saying germs did it in my opinion. Then, the “Ten little Indian boys” were victims of natural tragic causes and not victims of the extermination by the Europeans. I’ll let David Stannard talk more about “Ten little Indians.”

          Native American Holocaust - Before Columbus

          By the time ancient Greece was falling under the control of Rome, in North America the Adena Culture already had been flourishing for a thousand years. As many as 500 Adena living sites have been uncovered by modern archaeologists. Centered in present-day Ohio, they radiate out as far as Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia.

          - snip –

          Overlapping chronologically with the Adena was the Hopewell Culture that grew in time to cover an area stretching in one direction from the northern Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, in the other direction from Kansas to New York. The Hopewell people, who as a group were physiologically as well culturally distinguishable from the Adena, lived in permanent communities based on intensive horticulture, communities marked by enormous earthen monuments, similar to those of the Adena, that the citizenry built as religious shrines and to house the remains of their dead. Literally tens of thousands of these towering earthen mounds once covered the American landscape from the Great Plains to the eastern woodlands, many of them precise, geometrically shaped, massive structures of a thousand feet in diameter and several stories high; others-such as the famous quarter-mile long coiled snake at Serpent Mound, Ohio-were imaginatively designed symbolic temples.

          - snip -

          Similarly, Arawak (sometimes "Taino," but that is a misnomer, as it properly applies only to a particular social and cultural group) is the name now given to the melange of peoples who, over the course of many centuries, carried out those migrations across the Caribbean, probably terminating with the Saladoid people sometime around two thousand years ago. By the time of their encounter with Columbus and his crews, the islands had come to be governed by chiefs or caciques (there were at least five paramount chiefdoms on Hispaniola alone, and others throughout the region) and the people lived in numerous densely populated villages both ,' inland and along all the coasts. The houses in most of these villages were similar to those described by the Spanish priest Bartolome de Las Casas:

          She nourishes us; that which we put into the ground she returns to us. Big Thunder

          by Winter Rabbit on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 08:07:06 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  GG&S makes your point. He is on your side. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            snakelass, capelza

            He is saying the killers were able to kill because of the germ warfare they used.  

            They didn't know they were using it for the most part(except in the case of the Mandan Indians, not left out by Diamond).  

            They would have used the germs on purpose if they had known (my opinion only).

            Sometimes when I look back on our past, I wonder how we are ever going to get this right.  What a mess.

            Rouge girl makes America blush.

            by 88kathy on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 08:23:40 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I wonder that too, (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              88kathy, capelza, FarWestGirl

              I think that relying on beliefs on mass scales in major climate shifts is the danger to not repeat. Have to elaborate more later, but something like faith may help me individually, but for a group would spell disaster.

              Add that to a commonly held conviction some or many have today that there is divine authorization for violence and there is a formula for history repeating. I believe in keeping one's faith - private in most cases.

              She nourishes us; that which we put into the ground she returns to us. Big Thunder

              by Winter Rabbit on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 08:53:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Not saying you are, just to have the (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          88kathy, capelza, Larsstephens

          info out there.

          She nourishes us; that which we put into the ground she returns to us. Big Thunder

          by Winter Rabbit on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 08:07:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  It's the other way around (7+ / 0-)

        The First Peoples were at a natural disadvantage due to their long isolation from any outside contact. Meanwhile the Europeans had had to contend with so many waves of plagues and diseases that they'd built up at least partial immunities to practically all of them - and there were almost certainly a few carriers ("Typhoid Martys") among the invaders.

        The sheer lethality of the Black Death in Europe is itself a type-case example of what happens when a new bug gets loose among a population that has never before been exposed to it.

        Smallpox was nasty enough in a population that had grown up with it for generations. When it hit one that had never known anything like it - let's put it this way, one of the last of the Inca rulers died of smallpox at least five years before any white man set foot anywhere near Inca territory, it spread that far that fast.

        Much the same thing, unfortunately, would have happened if Leif Ericsson and Co. had made their colonization stick. (Even scarier, the Black Death would have swept the Americas too instead of being limited to Eurasia. As it was, it did get all the way to Iceland, and even Greenland - as if the Greenlanders needed any more troubles!)

        For the record, the Norse were plenty greedy too, but not nearly as fanatically religious.

        If it's
        Not your body
        Then it's
        Not your choice
        AND it's
        None of your damn business!

        by TheOtherMaven on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 08:02:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Actually, the Vikings predate the worst (5+ / 0-)

          of the plagues in Europe but not all of them. The first instance of the "Black Death" was likely the Plague of Justinian in 541-542 AD and lasted until c. 750 AD. It actually reached Denmark and Ireland but apparently didn't stick around to build up any immunity for the later runs in the 1300's. It may have even been possible that they did carry some diseases to the Americas, but they just didn't have any impact. I supposed we'll never know for sure since it would take an amazing find, a preserved in amber type discovery, to show what diseases they did bring.

          I'm a Puntheist. If your religion doesn't make you laugh out loud at least once a week you may have picked the wrong one.

          by ontheleftcoast on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 08:23:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The Plague of Justinian (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            snakelass, capelza, FarWestGirl, yaque

            may or may not have been the Black Death - there's some uncertainty about that. Even if it was, Europe saw nothing of it for nearly 600 years - long enough to lose a lot of immunity.

            When it returned, in 1348, it never went away again. (It's still lurking in the backlands, and cases are sporadically reported to this day.)

            If it's
            Not your body
            Then it's
            Not your choice
            AND it's
            None of your damn business!

            by TheOtherMaven on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 09:05:36 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  In other words - GUNS (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." - JFK

      by moose67 on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 08:22:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  He didn't suggest a racialist explanation, (6+ / 0-)

      but that Europeans had derived advantage from geography.

      "The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die." - Ted Kennedy

      by Lazar on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 08:28:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well, they did have a natural advantage -- (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      snakelass, capelza

      European history from Alexander the Great up through the 20th century was based on the frequent wars, during each of which the Europeans figured out better and more efficient ways to kill each other.

      The natives had no such history of warfare. Many of them had no concept of warfare.

      I really wish Thom Hartmann's podcast was still free somewhere. The second hour of his show today was about Columbus and about Native Americans and it was spectacular.

      "I set up a stage, put up a few banners, stuck a podium up there, and started shouting 'Yes we can.' Next thing you know there's 150,000 people here." -Joe

      by Geiiga on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 09:47:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  More than 500 years later... (8+ / 0-)

    ... they're still waiting for that immanent apocalypse; still waiting for Jesus to show up and kill all of the heathens.

    Great diary; it's sad that our kids are taught that he was some kind of hero.

    Think of all sentient beings as Buddha, but keep your hand on your wallet.

    by CathodeRay on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 07:42:46 PM PDT

    •  Kind of eerie, isn't it? (6+ / 0-)

      Still wonder how in the hell it's lasted that long.

      She nourishes us; that which we put into the ground she returns to us. Big Thunder

      by Winter Rabbit on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 07:45:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have a theory. (8+ / 0-)

        I think the whole extremist Christian / extremist conservative schtick revolves around punishment fantasies. That's why torture doesn't bother them. "Those people were tortured because they deserved it". Odd, that these people would envision a self-professed Prince of Peace throwing people in a lake of fire and having them suffer for eternity because they masturbated.

        As a species, we are so fucked.

        Think of all sentient beings as Buddha, but keep your hand on your wallet.

        by CathodeRay on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 07:53:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I recently saw original texts (6+ / 0-)

          of scripture giving divine permission for atrocities and thought, "This is part of the origin of genocide."

          She nourishes us; that which we put into the ground she returns to us. Big Thunder

          by Winter Rabbit on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 07:55:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Plenty of Atrocities Before Christians, Of Course (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            badger, capelza, Rosaura, yaque

            In 1492, human slavery was a fact just about everywhere, including in the 2 continents that would become known as the Americas. Columbus was a nasty brute by modern standards, but probably very recognizable by his contemporaries. Recall that there are still, according to the UN, something like 20 million slaves in our world today - we need another abolitionist movement.

            Columbus didn't "discover" America, of course, since the place was inhabited, but his voyages did contribute greatly to humanity's understanding of the globe. The event was still a big deal and well worth recalling. Imagine the shock of the most learned people of the "old world" when they figured out, eventually, that there were 2 giant continents across the Atlantic Ocean that they had never knew were there. The Europeans must have appeared to natives like space aliens, kind of.

            I'll risk being contrarian here, but genocide, conquest, colonialism and all that awful behavior can be found in pre-contact America too. And in just about every other region and society. The diarist blasts Christians, but he/she could blast any number of other groups for similar conduct. How do you think, for instance, that there became an Islamic belt from North Africa all the way to Indonesia? Hugs and Kisses? How many languages, religions, cultures were eradicated in that Muslim conquest? How did the Jews treat the Canaanites, who occupied the Land of Milk & Honey before them? Were the Incas and Aztecs always kindly to their neighbors?

            Just a few thoughts.

            The chemicals in your body are worth $3.18 - Capitalists appraise you while licking their chops

            by Otherday on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 08:59:16 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  It was Columbus Day? (14+ / 0-)

    Wouldn't know it in the NW except we didn't' get mail.  Guy doesn't deserve it...

    "Polls are like crack, political activists know they're bad for them but they read them anyways."-Unknown

    by skywaker9 on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 07:43:28 PM PDT

  •  qnd then there's Peabody taking over Hopi (4+ / 0-)

    This is us governing. Live so that 100 years from now, someone will be proud of us.

    by marthature on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 07:44:45 PM PDT

  •  I was a young girl when this started; now I am 64 (9+ / 0-)

    and the lies are still being told.

    This is us governing. Live so that 100 years from now, someone will be proud of us.

    by marthature on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 07:49:15 PM PDT

  •  thanks for this. Like most kids, I got the (15+ / 0-)

    "Columbus is a hero" version of history in school. It wasn't until I got to college that I learned that what I had been taught was not so.

  •  I heard a joke comparing Columbus to modern (14+ / 0-)

    US management techniques. It sort of went "He wasn't the first to discover America but he claimed to have done it. He was looking for China or India and found someplace else, yet despite his failure declared it a success. He lost all of his wealth and died a pauper yet was considered a hero". He really is an appopriate symbol for American businesses: 2nd place, reaching the wrong goals, and going broke while declaring victory.

    Maybe someday they'll actually teach history with an eye towards telling the whole story instead of some sanitized version of it. Thanks for the diary Winter Rabbit, always worth the reading.

    I'm a Puntheist. If your religion doesn't make you laugh out loud at least once a week you may have picked the wrong one.

    by ontheleftcoast on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 07:55:22 PM PDT

  •  food for thought... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Winter Rabbit, Lazar

    Would not the "new world" have done the same to the "old world" if they would have had the technology to do so?

    It's the conundrum of our existence, consciousness, and evolution.  Once one tribe/group/society gets the new fangled device, the others sure as heck better get the same thing or its bad news.

    It might not be just or right, but it sure seems to be true.

    Morality and justice are just human constructs.

    This doesn't excuse the deification of Columbus, as one would hope we can learn from history and do a little better with the time we are given here on Earth.

  •  Columbus bashing (4+ / 0-)

    Never quite understood it. I mean, by the time you get through college, you fully understand that the founding fathers were a bunch of slave-holding racist bastards, that Columbus was a murdering loon, and that all of our heroes have feet of clay. Hell, even MLK winds up being a philandering spouse abuser. Peek under the hood, not a whole lotta Mother Theresas in there and I wouldn't check her out too closely either.

    The point being, like the Santa Claus fable, I think it's appropriate to teach children that Columbus discovered the New World and that's why we celebrate this day and later on they'll learn that he was a genocidal bastard. Doing the postmodern bit too early plays into our worst stereotypes.

    Every day's another chance to stick it to The Man. - dls.

    by The Raven on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 08:21:33 PM PDT

  •  There was a diary (7+ / 0-)

    earlier today - with links to a petition to have Columbus Day changed:
    Change Columbus Day to Native American Day

    "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 08:24:04 PM PDT

  •  What a shocker that white men would want (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snakelass, Winter Rabbit, h bridges

    to give credit for the discovery of the new world to a white man whether it be a criminal like Columbus, or the Vikings or Amerigo (America) Vespucci. I do believe the people who came here during the last ice age and moved to inhabit north, central and south America should have the honor of "discovery." Yeah, like that's gonna happen. Thanks for another excellent diary exposing the TRUTH.  

    "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." - JFK

    by moose67 on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 08:35:11 PM PDT

  •  Please send a copy to Rep. Thomas and other (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, snakelass, Winter Rabbit

    Congress people.  Here is a link to a resolution to support teaching students more and Columbus in our schools.

    I agree that more should be taught but discourage it as a celebration.  Memorializing with telling the truth.

  •  Why didn't the Vikings colonize America? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snakelass, realalaskan, yaque

    There are a number of factors to consider, including that their technology, including military technology, was not all that advanced over the First Peoples. Their ships were not built for direct long-distance ocean voyages - they island-hopped their way across the North Atlantic, from the Hebrides to Iceland to Greenland (each more marginal for habitation than the last). Their supply line was long, thin and tenuous. The resources they found - furs, and the occasional wild fruits and such - weren't anything they couldn't get elsewhere with much less trouble. And finally, they antagonized the inhabitants, who fought back until the Norse cut their losses and went away, never to return.

    The Norse advantage in Europe as a whole had been similarly slim and tenuous - and it not only didn't last, it was eventually surpassed. Harold Godwinsson and Harald Hardraada faced each other on nearly equal terms at Stamford Bridge: similar cultures, similar weapons, similar fighting styles. But when Harold won and then had to head south to face Duke William, he was up against someone who had some significant innovations on his side - such as armored cavalry, and well-disciplined archers. And William was a sneaky bastard through and through (as Harold should have remembered from his one unfortunate visit to William's territory, when William tricked him into swearing a binding oath to support William as heir to the throne of England). He not only knew his advantages, he used them to win the battle of Hastings...and, in a way, put a period to the Viking era.

    Not only was the sociocultural climate changing - so was the literal climate. By 1066 the high point of the Medieval Optimum had already passed, and the weather was beginning to become more chancy, leading into the Little Ice Age. Seeking out new lands took a back seat to consolidating and maintaining what one already held. It would take major advances in shipbuilding before a new age of exploration could begin - and there were losses in the meantime, of which the Newfoundland trading post was only the first. Greenland proved untenable under the adverse conditions of the Little Ice Age - the settlements were never able to expand, and the Western Settlement went extinct somewhere between 1340-1360 (the Inuit got the blame, but it may also have been the Black Death), and the Eastern Settlement was last heard from around 1410. Iceland nearly went under, and sank to a poverty-stricken provincial backwater (remaining there until very, very recently). So it went - and it was no accident that the next wave of exploration, when it finally came, started in the relatively hospitable tropics.

    If it's
    Not your body
    Then it's
    Not your choice
    AND it's
    None of your damn business!

    by TheOtherMaven on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 08:45:39 PM PDT

  •  This is very odd for me (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, burrow owl, mama jo

    My dad's family is Italian.  His grandfather was born and largely reared in Italy.  We never celebrated this holiday, although I understand that for Italian Americans in the Northeast it's very important.  

    I'm still not sure how this became associated with Italian American ethnic identity.  But then, I'm usually behind the ball on this.  Misplaced sense of pride I suspect.  

    •  emphasis on American more than Italian (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      By comparison, St. Patrick's Day is a whole lot bigger amongst Irish Americans than the Irish, and Cinco de Mayo much bigger amongst Mexican Americans than Mexicans.

      Corporate America has ways of making sure the various diaspora stay as separated as possible instead of finding common cause as working people.

    •  somewhat the same here-- (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      snakelass, Alec82, FarWestGirl, yaque

      3 of my grandparents were from italy.

      as a child, i remember that we used to take some pride in columbus day, since --apparently-- it confirmed some sense of belonging, even tho on a daily basis my grandparents were semi-rejected members of an "american" society.

      as italians, we were proud that one of our own had "discovered" the continent, and proud that amerigo's name graced it.

      of course, these were the days when the extent of what we knew about columbus included this:

      "in nineteen-hundred and 42
      columbus sailed the ocean blue."

      "the nina, the pinta, and the santa maria."

      "why, columbus set out to prove the earth was not flat!"

      ...along about my first year in college i finally figured out that columbus was no hero, nor icon for us italian/americans. even my aged one-generation-from-the-"old-country" parents know that he did much more harm than good.

      knowing this is lame As Hell, and does not one iota of good at this point, let me just say--

      on behalf of italians, i apologize and am so sorry for all of that.

  •  For some reason... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, The Union Forever

    I misread the title as "Christopher Hitchens..."

    Oh well.

  •  There's a VERY bawdy song about Columbus (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And here's a link to one of the scuzzier versions:

    If it's
    Not your body
    Then it's
    Not your choice
    AND it's
    None of your damn business!

    by TheOtherMaven on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 09:31:16 PM PDT

  •  It has been a decades old tradition here in Calif (7+ / 0-)

    for elementary school kids to make replicas of the various Missions established by the Spanish. It has been established quite convincingly  that these were basically death camps. Sure, the Padres never intended it to be so, but their management of the "Indians", the living conditions and the punitive measures taken against them resulted in the same.
    When the Mission system ended around 1825, the Mexicans used them as slaves. And by the end of the Gold Rush, the Americans enslaved the remainder that weren't exterminated.

    This is what very few people know: One of the longest, continuous groups of peoples living in a specific geographic region (what is now Calif) in the history of the post ice age world were the natives of Calif -10,000 to 12,000 years. There were over 100 Tribelets and over 100 distinct languages. California was so rich in natural resources that only land management was necessary. Marine/River/lake life was abundant. Botanical knowledge was deep. The best basket makers were native women. I could go on but this is just supposed to be a comment.

    As in the rest of the new world, the native peoples were ravaged by disease, causing a majority of the deaths. However, it must be stressed that those who survived the initial 70 year holocaust (probably as a result of immune system adaptation)were nevertheless ruthlessly slaughtered. Most people in California have no idea of the history of indigenous people here.

    The Spanish, Mexican and "Americans" never thought the land was properly exploited and that the indians were lazy and stupid as a consequence. The truth was the land was respected and managed with great love, for it sustained their acestors for thousands of years. The foreigners came and decimated the natural order with European flora and fauna.  One of the greated examples of human and environmental symbiosis the world could have known was wiped out. I better stop now.

  •  I think that what should be rescued (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snakelass, capelza, FarWestGirl, yaque

    From this day, is that it was the birth of a new group of people. We can speak of Amerindians and Europeans all we want, but I kinda feel left out, as a mestizo. I'm neither one of them, but bits and pieces of those two groups.

    I kinda feel like the unwanted son at a dysfunctional marriage--mom and dad both arguing life would be so much better if they hadn't brought him into this world.

    "The respect for other people's rights equals peace."- Benito Juarez.

    by The Union Forever on Mon Oct 12, 2009 at 10:42:37 PM PDT

  •  One other tidbit (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I don't have a link, but when I read the Divine Comedy as a senior in high school, my Lit teacher said that one minor motive of fundie Columbus was seeking the Island of Purgatory as described by Dante. Its antipodal location virtually demanded a southwesterly voyage across the Atlantic—except for the huge landmass in the way.

  •  Cinco Siglos Igual (0+ / 0-)

    I heard this in a Mercedes Sosa concert in the late 90's.

    "Like five centuries"

    (I plugged the Spanish lyrics I found into an online translator. I thought of reformatting and separating the English, but this way actually seems to works better)

    Soledad sobre ruinas, Soledad on ruins,
    sangre en el trigo Blood on wheat
    rojo y amarillo, Red and yellow,
    manantial del veneno spring venom
    escudo heridas, shield wounds,
    cinco siglos igual. Like five centuries.

    Libertad sin galope, Freedom without gallop,
    banderas rotas Broken flags
    soberbia y mentiras, Arrogance and lies,
    medallas de oro y plata gold and silver medals
    contra esperanza, Against expectation,
    cinco siglos igual. Like five centuries.

    En esta parte de la tierra la historia se cay? In this part of the earth's history is dropped
    ...como se caen las piedras ... as falling rocks
    aun las que tocan el cielo even those that touch the sky
    o est?n cerca del sol or are close to the sun
    o est?n cerca del sol. or are close to the sun.

    Desamor desencuentro, Disaffection disagreement,
    perd?n y olvido forgive and forget
    cuerpo con mineral, ore body,
    pueblos trabajadores Peoples Workers
    infancias pobres, poor childhoods,
    cinco siglos igual. Like five centuries.

    Lealtad sobre tumbas, Loyalty on graves,
    piedra sagrada sacred stone
    Dios no alcanz? a llorar, God did not reach to mourn,
    sue?o largo del mal long dream of evil
    hijos de nadie, cinco siglos igual. children of anyone, like five centuries.

    Muerte contra la vida, Death against life,
    gloria de un pueblo desaparecido glory of a people disappeared
    es comienzo, es final is beginning, is final
    leyenda perdida, Legend lost
    cinco siglos igual. Like five centuries.

    En esta parte de la tierra In this part of the earth
    la historia se cay? the story is dropped
    como se caen las piedras as falling rocks
    aun las que tocan el cielo even those that touch the sky
    o estan cerca del sol or are close to the sun
    o estan cerca del sol. or are close to the sun.

    Es tinieblas con flores, It's darkness with flowers,
    revoluciones Revolutions
    y aunque muchos no est?n, and though many are not,
    nunca nadie pens? besarte los pies, nobody ever thought to kiss the feet,
    cinco siglos igual. Like five centuries.

    to weep

  •  There are serious problems in reasoning (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    burrow owl

    with this diary.

    1.  Cristobal Colombo obviously is not responsible for events before his birth, so it makes little sense to assign some kind of mystical connection between him and paranoid violence surrounding the Black Death.
    1.  He was indeed motivated by "greed" in the sense that he sought material wealth through commonly undertaken means - exploration and establishment of new maritime trade routes, conquest and pillage of weaker societies, and enslavement of indigenous peoples.  None of this was in any way remarkable, and in fact it was so common for the era that he was almost totally forgotten for centuries.
    1.  As we cannot blame him for events before his birth, it is no more realistic to blame him for events transpiring centuries after his death.  The segregation, robbery, impoverishment, and ethnic cleansing (not genocide, in any but the rarest cases) of indigenous peoples was not likely part of his own designs.  He was simply an Italian entrepreneur looking for a lucrative trade route,  not some fiendish Eichmann prototype.
    1.  Blaming him for the Middle Passage because he  made Renaissance Europe aware of the other side of the Atlantic Ocean would be like blaming Lewis and Clark for the Mexican-American war.  Columbus had nothing to do with maritime routes to West Africa, nothing to do with English and Scots-Irish Southern aristocrats turning slavery into an institutionalized theory of racial supremacy.  Attributions like that are ideology-based, not realistic history.
    1.  Saying that indigenous peoples would have been better off without Columbus is a matter of speculation.  Two huge continents with vast resources populated by civilizations at least a thousand years behind European and Asian states would not have remained in isolation once their existence became common knowledge - something that was inevitable with growing maritime activity in the North and South Atlantic.  
    1.  Furthermore, while the question of whether American Indians would have been better off without Columbus is speculation, there is one thing that is indisputable: The events that followed from his mission ultimately made the United States of America possible, and I'm quite glad that our nation exists, and rather disturbed that I feel the attitude of this diary makes stipulating that necessary.  It is possible to both recognize the wrongs and horrors of the past without condemning or demonizing what good has ultimately been salvaged from it.  Anyone who really wishes this country had never existed probably would feel more comfortable expressing that in another setting.

    Truth is wordless shapes, and words only a medium.

    by Troubadour on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 02:28:44 AM PDT

  •  the Mindset in Spain ... 800 years of (0+ / 0-)

    occupation and rule by a conquering, enslaving culture... and they became what they were by learning from their erstwhile Moorish rulers how to defeat them; by becoming a Christian version of the Moor's worst aspects. The mindset and ruthlessness and religious re-invention all built up in the "reconquista" which also coincided with their newly developed deep ocean sailing technology which was partly driven by the loss of direct cheaper contact with the overland trade to the east and China when the Turkish conquest of Constantinople occurred.

    It is important to note that Moorish histories from when they were in power in Spain paint themselves (as the victors) as benign, wise and tolerant rulers... and they often were... so their histories are selective not unlike way too many other histories... The Spanish version of those 800 years is not surprisingly pretty much the opposite and not without basis either.

    With our hindsight the Spanish world-view seems extreme but it made sense to them at the time. They had just completed the retaking of their own land from the Moors and then had a significant source of trade disappear. In their minds they were in a contest with a militant Islam which was still powerful at sea in the Mediterranean, was advancing south into Africa and part of the competition Spain had with them was for resources like Gold and slaves. They had been able to stop being a major slave source but rather than rejecting the idea of slavery they continued with the idea that it was OK to enslave others.

    After all slavery was a fact of life in Spain for 800 years prior when many of THEM were the slaves and before that as part of the Roman empire. As for the rest of Europe, besides the Vikings and the Ottomans and the North African powers who took and traded slaves from that region, chattel Slavery was not a normal part of life and what little there was was vanishing. It took well into the 1600's for the Portuguese and Spanish to have economic reasons to really expand African trade into the enormous scale that they did which then brought in competition from the other rising European powers.

    They did not move wholesale into the African trade right away... it was much cheaper to kidnap native peoples in the Americas and the Sugar cane plantation business which needed huge amounts of labor did not become the main money-spinner for quite a while yet. Why? There was no market yet in the rest of Europe... that took time to build up as well. And their earlier ships were not up to the job and did not become big enough or fast enough till later.

    A simplistic story where Ravening Spanish showed up with an agenda to kill and enslave everybody from day one is entertaining but somewhat misleading. If anything... it is more that the mini-Haliburtons of the day took over soon after and pushed Columbus aside as well anyone else who did not get with maximizing profits right away. And once the quick money people were in control... they also could spin all the reasons why they were doing what they were doing... and become much more wealthy and powerful to the point where they called the shots with little interference from anyone. Especially when they sold the saving souls thing so easily... lots of the effort to claim the New World had those motivations... and many went there with high-minded notions... most of which were quickly killed off by the harsh realities when they got there. But not everyone gave up... but they did not change much of what happened... maybe kept some things from being even worse... a little bit...

    Over the years there were actually moderate bleeding heart factions who attempted to hold back the worst of  the cut throats policies... and if the "kinder, gentler" colonialists/Churchmen did succeed sometimes in policies that were nicer to the "Natives" who, after all were all supposed to have their souls saved and not be enslaved too much... it did not win out as much as the more strict and greedy faction's approach. And after they ran out of easy to enslave local people they switched to Africans who were more OK as slaves for some reason.. maybe because they died off less quickly?.. There is some thought that the switch to Africans was driven by those who had been granted exclusive rights to African slaving. They sided with the "be nicer to Indian party" because then they would have an exclusive lock on supplying slaves to the New World and then they would REALLY clean up. (sort of like health-care Trojan horse policies pushed by Insurance companies that are championed in the name of reform but only because it will make them even richer...) So there was not a monolithic consistent set of policies and views on the part of Spain and Portugal over treatment of Native Peoples but in the end that did not matter with all the death and destruction that happened anyway...

    And yes most of the death in the Americas after 1492 was due to disease and there is very little actual proof of intentional infection that led to large numbers of deaths over the past 500 years. It was by no means even vaguely understood at the time that Europeans just showing up there was the reason that up to 80 to 90 percent of the population in the New world vanished by causing a firestorm of disease... To the Spanish, if and when they noticed it, seemed like a miraculous act of God... showing that they were somehow chosen to take over... Nobody understood germs or the reasons for infection. Evil spirits, curses, divine wrath/will, miasmas, bad humors... were all they knew...

    That in no way takes away from or excuses the pervasive violence and death inflicted directly by Colonizing Europeans. They are no less blameless if those deaths were 20% 10% or even 1% of the total... But any notion that they intended, with full understanding ahead of time, to wipe out vast numbers of people on a continental scale is not based on any facts at all. They did not understand disease or immunity or even know the size of the lands they had recently encountered.

    And the pandemics over the next 350 years were all much much worse than the Black death in Europe. It was not just one pathogen it was many different diseases washing over and over vast areas without much chance for all the different populations to keep their social strength and cultural continuity going normally... If there had been more time to recover the Europeans would have been confronted by a restored and formidable set of nations that would have forced them to treat them on even terms instead of weakened peoples whose concerns they did not have to listen to.

    A tragedy compounded by hundreds of years of criminal acts by numerous different people under different rulers and for different reasons does not mean we get to directly blame Columbus as if he in effect wrote some sort of Mein Kampf with a complete set of intentions and a rationale and plan for Genocide, and as new Ruler of much of Europe and with the Pope in his back pocket, set out to accomplish the final solution of the New World question and score some serious gold as well.

    By all means we should know what happened. Columbus was an important historical figure who changed history but who was also not really in control of what happened after his voyages of discovery or had any understanding of what would end up happening. He very quickly ended up a failed administrator and has-been after being too weak to avoid or fix increasing abuse and mistakes.  And mistreatment of the peoples in the first colonies was blamed on him and used as excuses to remove him and then those who took over afterwords swarmed in and very typically had even less restraint and inflicted much more cruelty and misery than can ever be blamed fairly or unfairly on Columbus... things that were much easier to do when most of the potential resistance to them was vanishing due to the diseases. There were simply just not enough people in the short term to say NO to the conquistadores.

    We do have to get away from the cardboard cutout hero Columbus that we have had handed down to us... even the history of the way we think of him has gone through many twists and turns. But I choose not to swap those shallow myths, half-truths and lies for a cartoon villain version of him either.

    Let's have a Native American day as well as a more informed Columbus day that is as accurate and balanced as possible.

    Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

    by IreGyre on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 09:13:48 AM PDT

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