In fourteen hundred ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue
He slaughtered the Sioux and didn’t discover anything new
It’s time to bid this federal holiday adieu
It would be more useful to celebrate a giant stalk of bamboo
The second Monday in October marks Christopher Columbus Day, letting the American people acknowledge and celebrate two things: a lost, racist, genocidal maniac of a man, and a four-day school week. And I think we all know which one is more worthy of a federal holiday title.
In elementary school, we were told the heavily sugar-coated story of Christopher Columbus and how he “discovered America.” He basically sounded like the bravest explorer ever and he had the coolest boat names. He was a hero. He “freed” the Native Americans. In middle school, the teachers let us in a little bit more. Sure, he gave the natives smallpox and exposed them to European diseases, but what’s discovering the New World without a few downfalls? Then came high school, and in some cases, AP U.S. History. Everything we grew up knowing about Columbus seemed to have magically come out of a children’s story book, a whitewashed tale. In some ways, it literally did come out of a story book.
Washington Irving, the American author who wrote the short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” also dabbled in the genre of romantic history, publishing books half nonfiction and half Irving’s imagination, even coming up with the myth that Europeans believed the earth was flat. That’s right, the same man who wrote about a headless horseman would later serve as context to as why Columbus proving the Earth was round was so important. It wasn’t. As early as the 6th century, Pythagoras, a mathematician, wrote extensively on the Earth as a sphere. “The Sphere” written in the 1200s, almost 300 years before Columbus set sail, was a required book in all European universities. The medieval Europeans were not uneducated and Columbus knew well he didn’t discover that the Earth was round; it was just a dreamy story by Irving that has been taught in the American public school system for 185 years.
The main criticism that stems from trashing Columbus Day and opting for something more suitable like Indigenous Peoples’ Day is the sense of pride Italian-Americans get from celebrating. It’s been believed that Columbus was born in the small sea town of Genoa, born to a humble weaver and his wife. However, over the years, countries such as Greece, Catalonia, Portugal, Corsica, France and even Poland have tried to claim Columbus as their. Recently, Estelle Irizarry, a linguistic professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., published findings looking at Columbus’ penmanship. Irizarry concluded, based on documents written by Columbus, that he was a Catalan- speaking man from the Spanish region of Aragon. So, Italian-Americans, if you’re that hung up on a successful and important Italian figure in history to commemorate, please celebrate anybody but fake-Italian Columbus, like Raphael or Galileo, or even a bowl of pasta.
Leah Sheltry, Assistant Editor in Chief
Senior Leah Sheltry is the Assistant Editor-in-Chief of the 2015-2016 Colonel. She is the secretary of Youth United for Global Action and Awareness (YUGA) Club and is on the swim team.