Columbus Day is one of the most controversial holidays on the planet. The holiday celebrates the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The arrival of Columbus on the shores of the American continent has many advantages and disadvantages intertwined in such a way that many opt to ignore the holiday. Columbus Day was not a public holiday in America until 1906 when the State of Colorado decided to make it a public holiday. It was not until 1934 when the then president Roosevelt declared the day a federal holiday and spread it to different States in the United States. However, some States declined celebrating the holiday for various reasons. The states of Hawaii, Alaska, South Dakota and Oregon decided not to celebrate the holiday. Other countries in the American continent still celebrate the holiday to mark the entrance of civilization into their countries.
The holiday reminds some people of the religious freedoms that they got in America. When Columbus discovered the continent in the fifteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church ruled many countries in Europe. The people that dared oppose the rule of the Catholic Church in the period, suffered torture and suffering on the hands of the priests and the faithful of the Catholic Church. The discovery of a continent America offered refuge for many Protestants who wanted to have freedom of worship. The continent offered the first fruits of democracy where people could worship freely and practice their Christian faith without interference. America became a continent where the Catholics and the Protestants lived together without having to fight or force religion on different people. The discovery proved wrong belief that the world was flat. People that support the celebration of the holiday argue that these are things worth remembering.
However, the discovery of the continent only provided hope for the visitors that practiced Christian religion. The activities that took place on the American soil against the natives were against the very beliefs of the Christian faith the inhabitants claimed to believe. Columbus captured the natives and forced them into slavery. Many acts of cruelty to the people that were non-Europeans were committed forcing them to live in extreme poverty. Opponents of this holiday argue that it did not portray the true beliefs of Christianity or allow for freedom of worship. It just transferred the religious monotony from Europe and brought it to America. The natives were not allowed to practice their native religions and were not considered human enough to have various freedoms the visitors had. The holiday acts as a reminder of the cruelty that happened to the natives and is not worth celebrating to them. A religious covering masked the evils that took place in the continent, but any noble minded American would see the cruelty that happened to the American natives that had occupied the continent. In the 19thcentury,plans to make the day a public holiday failed in many parts of the continent as it was seen as a way of spreading the Catholic influence into various parts of the continent.
The proponents of this move argue that the settling of the Europeans in the continent was a move that brought development in the continent. They argue that that the settling of the Europeans in the continent was a move that brought about Western civilization in a continent that was full of great potential but no one to utilize that potential. They argue that Columbus and his companions brought light into a continent that was full of darkness. Western civilization came with the development of reason, self-reliance and independence in a continent that was full of collectivism Mysticism and primitivism. The natives were enlightened by the move of the Europeans into the continent and ought to be grateful by celebrating the movement of Columbus into the continent.
However, this argument forgets the marginalization of the natives that took place in the continent during that period. The natives were happy with their primitivism and and mystic rituals. They had enough to eat drink and reproduce. They had occupied most parts of the continent with their mystic style of life. However, the coming of Columbus into the continent robbed them all these privileges and forces them to become second-class-citizens in their own land. They were never considered as people because of their beliefs and primitivism. The fact that they did not wear any clothes and did not feel anything about it proved that they were just as primitive as good as the animals. Columbus and his friends not only chased them out of their lands but also killed them for their gain. The celebration of this day is a reminder of the cruelty that took place against these people and a reminder of the cruelty that these natives encountered. The fact that people idolize Columbus by giving him a holiday is not only a reminder of the painful experiences that these people went through but also an exultation of cruelty and inhuman nature.
Columbus was a supporter of great animosity against the natives in the land. He viewed them as ignorant and good for nothing creatures. In his own words, he described their ignorance saying that he gave them a sword and they held it by the edge. He encouraged their slavery arguing that they were not fit to be regarded as humans; they were just as good as any beast of burden. As he encouraged the Europeans to invest in the country he gave enticed them with free labor from the natives. In Hawaii, he captured close to 1500 Arawak men women and children and put them into cages ready to sell them as slaves in Europe. He loaded them in ships and transported them to Spain for sale. Hundreds of them died on the way because of their poor treatment and their bodies thrown into the sea. After this justified his actions saying that they did not display any shame of their nakedness just like animals. He therefore encouraged slave trade in the name of the Trinity. Idolizing such a man would be idolizing cruelty and disrespecting the human dignity.
Columbus himself was an opportunist who took advantage of his discovery of a land to praise himself. Before he ever arrived, the Vikings and the natives had already occupied the continent. His arrival in the continent brought about colonization, slave trade, and other inhuman act against the natives. This continent was rich in resources but the resources belonged to the natives. He chased away the natives and killed most of them. The development that came as a result of his presence in the country was fueled by the blood and sweat of the natives that lost their land, freedom and dignity. This day does not deserve to become a public holiday for the sake of Columbus but can be used to honor the natives that sacrificed their lives involuntarily to bring about the development that is there in the present continent.
Irving, W., & McElroy, J. H. (1981). The life and voyages of Christopher Columbus. Boston: Twayne Publishers.
Liestman, V., & Hanson, R. (1991). Columbus Day. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books.
Mann, C. C. (2005). 1491: New revelations of the Americas before Columbus. New York: Knopf.
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