Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo) has gotten a bad reputation over the years and has become the poster boy for all of the injustices that are claimed to have been caused by the European settlers to Native Americans.   I want to set the record straight in honor of Columbus Day.

There are a few people who would like us to believe that because Italy, as a political entity, was established after Columbus, that Columbus, born in Genoa, does not share the ancestral heritage we call Italian.  These people simply fail to appreciate that his Italian heritage is based on centuries of shared cultural experiences and is not dependant on the existence of the unified political entity called Italy at the time of his birth.

There are people who argue that since other explorers had visited the North American continent long before Columbus that his epic journey did not amount to a discovery and should not be recognized.   If we were to adopt such a narrow definition of “discovery” we would have to discount all of the discoveries that have been made over the centuries of things that already existed but were yet unknown such as “new” forms of life or “new” natural elements or the host of other things that exist in the world and still need to be discovered by the probing minds and efforts of those who dare to look.  The point is that Columbus had the vision and courage to find a “new world” that was not known or explored by the Europeans of his era.

There are people who accuse Columbus of exploiting and bringing injustice to the indigenous population.   First, most anthropologists believe that the so called indigenous population had, themselves, migrated to North America during the early expansion of mankind from its initial origins.  One has to only wonder as to how each wave of these ancient migrants subjugated those who came before them.   The point is that from a global and historical perspective the entire world’s population is marked by a series of migrations over the ages thus making it impossible to truly say that any group is indigenous.

Further, since the dawn of mankind, competing societies have been struggling with each other over resources and territory and that in every such struggle one group becomes dominant over the other.  These power struggles represent the political and social evolution of the world and are much too complicated to be reduced to just a list of villains and victims.   The struggle for power that ensued between the European settlers and the Native Americans has become singled out by those who would like us to believe that Columbus was the ultimate villain who had the unique power to control the history of the world.  The point is that the struggle between the European settlers and the Native Americans was just one of the human struggles that have defined and shaped our world over the centuries and is a phenomenon that has occurred throughout history.

To blame Columbus for the outcome of this particular struggle is a simplistic reaction from people who choose not to understand the dynamics of history.

Happy Columbus Day.