Even though immoral, Columbus should still be remembered


IMAGE / Jenna Robinson

Connor Earegood

Many students remember Christopher Columbus as the man who discovered the New World, although this common “fact” is simply not so; groups like the Vikings had long contacted the Americas.

Many also know Columbus as a brutal slaver, a genocidal murderer, and a greedy miser.

He killed for gold and took countless natives into servitude as he explored the Caribbean islands he came across.

Bartolomeo de las Casas, a historian and priest who witnessed the brutalities of conquest, went so far as to call the actions of the Spanish moral sins, not just crimes and bad behavior.

With all these crimes against him, efforts to strip Columbus of his accidental achievement seem superfluous.

Columbus’ crimes were not hidden in the past; there wasn’t a big conspiracy theory to make him look like a saint.

His history has always been the same, and despite its atrocities, his discovery’s benefits deserve respect, whether it be in the form of a holiday or otherwise.

He may have been a terrible person, but he still caused a ripple in history that has shaped every aspect of modern life, blending the world economically and politically.

Without his discovery, the rivalry-driven rush for land in the Americas may never have happened. It could have been decades, or even centuries until another explorer had the gumption to sail the Atlantic.

Also, the Columbian exchange would not have occurred, meaning plants and animals, diseases and pests would never have scattered across both the Americas and Afro-Eurasia.

Could you imagine a world where potatoes, tomatoes, and corn weren’t available in Europe, a world without horses or cows in the Americas?

Some negatives would have been avoided, such as the spread of smallpox and measles to native populations, but these epidemics would have occurred anyway when natives contacted Europeans. The natives had no immunities to Afro-Eurasian diseases, therefore any foreign contact would have infected them.

Mr. Rob Markwardt, world history teacher, believes Columbus Day celebrates an era rather than Columbus.

“Columbus Day to me celebrates that spirit of exploration, of that uniquely human motivation to push out into the unknown,” Markwardt said.

Markwardt’s AP World History class delves into the era of exploration, including Columbus’ discovery.

Context may be key to understanding Columbus’ actions according to Markwardt.

“I try to make it a common practice in my class to see the world through the eyes of those who lived during the periods we study,” Markwardt said. “It may be unfair to judge Columbus by our standards today. He certainly was not aware that he would spread disease to the New World, and it seems as though he and his men appreciated the kindness they were shown.”

Just like any event, perspective is everything.

I am not defending Columbus. He was an immoral scoundrel who committed an array of crimes against the native Caribbeans.

But his discovery of islands for Spain, which caused a wave of American exploration, makes him deserving of remembrance.

If we stripped holidays from every immoral person, we would be left with only Christmas and Easter.

Since Columbus Day was Monday, Oct. 8, take the time to think about Columbus, both his achievements and his faults.