Why Columbus Day is worth defending and celebrating

By Scott S. Powell, Op-ed contributor| Monday, October 11, 2021

Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus landing in America with the Piuzon Brothers bearing flags and crosses, 1492. Original Artwork: By D Puebla (1832 – 1904) | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Among the federal holidays, Columbus Day has become one of the least honored, partially due to controversy about misdeeds associated with colonization.  In fact, Columbus never set foot on or came close to any territory that later became part of the continental United States. 

The history of Christopher Columbus is actually less messy and more consequential than many of the other heroes of our national holidays. There is not only a great deal to celebrate in Columbus, but the man embodied a range of attributes that are necessary to solving many of our contemporary problems and even saving our country from further decline and collapse resulting from groupthink, corruption, and abuse of power.   

The American story began with Columbus’s successful 4,000 miles long sail from Europe across the Atlantic Ocean.  His quest was twofold: to find a western passage to the Spice Islands and India, and second, to carry the good news of Jesus the Savior to people in new parts of the world.   

Columbus had grown up in a working-class family and his life was one of hardship, punctuated by near-death and failures that would have been the demise of most ordinary people. If he had not been a man of character and determination with deep faith in God, self-confidence to ignore critics, and steadfastness in his vision and his calling, he never could have accomplished what he did, which was of course the discovery of the New World of the Western Hemisphere.

Columbus left voluminous writings that bear witness to what motivated him to do what he did. Born and raised in Genoa, Italy, he was the consummate self-made man who shipped out at an early age. Experiencing the militant face of Islam at the eastern end of the Mediterranean that created a blockade to Europe’s important overland trade with the Orient, he knew that finding a western sea route would have far-reaching benefits.

Columbus faced death when the Flemish-flagged ship on which he was crew was attacked and sunk off the coast of Portugal. But for a seafarer with his ambition and vision, as providence would have it, there was no better place to wash up than on the shore of Portugal, a nation that had developed the world’s most advanced tools of navigation and map-making. In Portugal, Columbus’s exposure to celestial navigation further confirmed his confidence to sail west across the Atlantic and find a trade route to India and the Spice Islands. By his late 30s he felt “called,” writing in his diary, “It was the Lord who put into my mind, [and] I could feel his hand upon me … that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies.” 

Recognizing that such an undertaking would need state sponsorship, Columbus and his brother spent the next 6 years traipsing across Europe seeking support from sovereignties of the leading maritime countries, only to find rejection and ridicule.  Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain had turned down Columbus several times. But because of his seafaring skills, conviction in his vision, and his bravery and willingness to lead an armed flotilla to rescue the Holy Sepulcher from Muslim hands in the eastern Mediterranean, they had a change of heart.

Few years in history have been punctuated by such pivotal events as what happened in 1492.  It was in that year that Christendom — still suffering from the loss of Constantinople to the Muslim Turks 40 years prior — was liberated from the Muslim conquest of Spain and Europe with Isabella and Ferdinand playing the pivotal role. They then decided to support Christian expansion and back the exploration and evangelistic expedition of Columbus.

In his first voyage, after being at sea for nearly 2 months, Columbus faced an anxious and increasingly frustrated crew.  The situation became mutinous with threats to heave Columbus overboard if he did not agree to their demands to turn back.  Recognizing that he could hardly restrain let alone punish his mutinous crew, given that there were 40 of them, Columbus turned to God. In a letter that has been preserved among his personal historical records, Columbus wrote that God inspired him to make a deal with his Spanish crew and stake his life on it.  He asked for 3 more days, and if land was not sighted, the crew could do with him as they wished.  

In the early morning hours of the third day on October 12, the lookout from the ship Pinta gave the long-awaited signal of sighting land. Assuming it was an island to the east of India or perhaps China, Columbus had no idea that he was about to discover a new part of the world — the outskirts of a massive continent — far from the Orient. 

Today’s “woke” culture, which has held Columbus accountable for the chain of disasters that followed in his wake in the Caribbean and South America is not only unfair to him, but it overlooks the essence of the man. Not of Spanish culture, Columbus was at heart a simple but ambitious individualist — a seafaring explorer and evangelist.  He had neither interest in founding colonies nor was he an effective leader and administrator of strong-headed hidalgos that undertook setting up colonial outposts at the behest of Queen Isabella.

Columbus’s perseverance and courage in his transatlantic feat of crossing a vast ocean inspired successors from northern Europe who had been transformed by the Protestant Reformation with the ideas of equality and freedom. They would set out to pursue a new life in a new world, ultimately establishing 13 different colonies in coastal North America.

Suffering injustice from Great Britain, those colonists reluctantly banded together to fight for independence. Over 6 years of war they lost more battles than they won. But like the course of Columbus, George Washington’s persistence, courage, and faith in God empowered an underequipped and underfunded colonial army to get to final victory and achieve independence.  That, in turn, enabled the founding of a new nation, unlike any other — one based on the revolutionary idea that people’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness were inviolable because those rights came from God and not man or the state.  

Seen as a bigger picture, Columbus Day is worth keeping and honoring for the simple reason that it celebrates beliefs and qualities of character that are foundational to America.  It could even be said that Columbus Day is the holiday that commemorates the human character, attitudes, and choice of action that made the other American holidays possible.

Scott S. Powell is senior fellow at Discovery Institute. He has enjoyed a career split between theory and practice with 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur and rainmaker in several industries. He joined the Discovery Institute after having been a visiting fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution for six years and serving as a managing partner at a consulting firm, RemingtonRand.

https://www.christianpost.com/news/why-columbus-day-is-worth-defending-and-celebrating.html


Related

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/10/11/desantis-hails-christopher-columbus-singular-figure-in-western-civilization-who-exemplified-heroism/

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/10/11/ron-desantis-those-who-defame-columbus-aim-to-blame-u-s-for-all-that-is-evil-in-the-world/

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/10/11/mastrangelo-how-columbus-day-became-a-holiday-to-combat-racism-against-italian-americans/

These Out-Of-Print Children’s Biographies Repudiate The Bitter Lies Of Today’s Uneducated Anti-Americans

Forty years ago, as my children’s book collection proves, grade-school history pedagogy offered a diverse and inclusive narrative about our national past.

These Out-Of-Print Children’s Biographies Repudiate The Bitter Lies Of Today’s Uneducated Anti-Americans

By Casey Chalk

This month marks 143 years since Chief Joseph, leader of the Pacific Northwest Indian tribe the Nez Percé, surrendered to a U.S. Army detachment in northern Montana. There the warrior famously declared, “From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”

Others, however, are still eager to keep up the fight in the name of indigenous people. Demonstrators affiliated with the Miwok Tribe in San Rafael, California, on Oct. 13 vandalized and tore down yet another statue of Franciscan missionary Junipero Serra. Other ersatz torch-bearers of the cause include those municipalities, such as Baltimore and the District of Columbia, that have recently changed Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The first place I read of Chief Joseph’s famous speech was in a children’s biography of him, published more than 40 years ago by Troll Associates. It was one of many titles Troll released in the 1970s and 1980s honoring Native Americans such as Black Hawk, Osceola, Pocahontas, Pontiac, Sacagawea, Squanto, and Sitting Bull. I was fascinated by all things American Indian. These titles were part of my childhood library as an elementary student in the early 1990s. I still own them and have read them to my own grade-school children.

Troll’s canon of American biographies for kids extended far beyond Native American heroes. There were biographies honoring the best of baseball, such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jackie Robinson. Other books memorialized our nation’s first leaders: George Washington, John Adams, John Paul Jones, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe. Still, others paid tribute to later great Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Clara Barton, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, and even actress and singer Pearl Bailey. No one could accuse Troll of not being inclusive of women or minorities.

Many Older Books Don’t Whitewash the Past

Also among Troll’s biographies of historical American figures was one of Christopher Columbus. “Of all the explorers in history, none made a greater contribution to the world than Christopher Columbus. He was more than an extraordinary navigator and sailor. Columbus was a man of vision and determination,” reads the introduction by author Rae Bains.

Bains also notes many of those who followed Columbus in colonizing the New World for Spain were greedy and “became angry and disillusioned.” And Columbus ultimately fell out of favor at the Spanish royal court and “died a deeply disappointed man.” The author might not indulge the reader in the brutal details of Spanish colonization, but this portrayal is far from saccharine.

Bains’s biography of Columbus certainly doesn’t employ the absurd and erroneous assertions we find in contemporary portrayals of the explorer. “Native Hawaiian advocate” Lopaka Purdy in a recent Washington Post article claims, “Columbus should be considered the progenitor of white supremacy. Let us remember him for that. … Columbus is famous because he was a thief. That was his impact.”

Purdy should also consider Columbus’s purposes and contributions. As for the anachronistic charge that Columbus is the “progenitor of white supremacy,” one might as well charge Alexander the Great with inventing imperialism or Genghis Khan with toxic masculinity.

The difference between Troll’s and today’s portrayals of American history is that the former actually tried to tell a coherent, inclusive narrative about our nation, one that sought to find unifying themes among a diverse and disparate set of characters. Native American heroes such as Osceola and Sitting Bull are rightly lauded for their love of their people and their homes, and for courageously resisting what was often unjust, unsympathetic, and racist attacks on their way of life.

We celebrate Washington and Jefferson because they made unparalleled contributions to American politics and history. We honor Thurgood Marshall and Rosa Parks because they represent our nation’s continued struggle to right past wrongs and fully realize the unprecedented vision of our founding political documents.

Sympathy unites all of these children’s biographies. The biography of Robert E. Lee, also by Bains, largely focuses on his childhood, which was marked by great familial upheaval. His father, Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, despite being a Revolutionary War hero and a Virginia politician, was incompetent and negligent, spent time in debtors’ prison, and for a time lived in the West Indies. He died on the return journey to Virginia when Robert was 11. “Robert had a difficult childhood,” observed Bains, who devoted far more attention to Lee’s resilience and virtue at West Point and in the U.S. military than his role as the Confederacy’s greatest general.

Kids Need to Learn the Complexities of History

Eliciting empathy in the child reader is an essential educational objective because it is required for both civic and family responsibility. As this year proves, our political climate is in sore need of more of it. Learning of the struggles, failures, hopes, and achievements of historical Americans engenders that virtue. Limiting Columbus and Lee or Washington and Jefferson to a simplistic, binary narrative of white, patriarchal oppression not only doesn’t do their stories justice, but it also short-circuits the maturation process via reductionist tropes.

Telling kids that their history is full of racist patriarchs fosters cynicism and a Manichean, self-destructive understanding of the past in which some people, namely oppressors, are evil and to be censured; others, namely the oppressed, are good and to be praised. It is this kind of blinkered, perverse thinking that provokes the continued desecration and destruction of our national heritage. Unable to see ourselves in our collective past, we tear it down with impunity.

What Troll sought to accomplish with its American biography series was far more inclusive than what today’s social studies curricula seek to sell children. The publisher, which filed for bankruptcy in 2003, believed there was enough room in the telling of American history for both Christopher Columbus and Pontiac, Robert E. Lee, and Rosa Parks. Certainly, all four possessed manifestations of courage, leadership, brilliance, and conscience. That their stories represented different and even conflicting visions of America reveals the complex, sometimes morally nebulous nature of our national narrative, rather than obscures it, as do the 1619 Project and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Teaching Hard History.”

Forty years ago, as my children’s book collection proves, grade-school history pedagogy offered a diverse and inclusive narrative about our national past. It integrated biographies of men and women from a remarkable variety of backgrounds, be they rich or poor, black, white, or indigenous.

As I became older, I sensed the tension between their stories. James Monroe was a brave soldier and great statesman, but his hostile, expansionist policies ultimately incited a bloody, desperate revolt by Osceola to protect his people. That we are capable of deeming both men worthy of America’s honor evinces what is best about our national history, not what is worst.

Casey Chalk is a Senior Contributor at The Federalist, columnist for The American Conservative, Crisis Magazine, and The New Oxford Review. He has a bachelors in history and masters in teaching from the University of Virginia, and masters in theology from Christendom College.Photo Internet Archive Book Images/Flickr

https://thefederalist.com/2020/10/22/these-out-of-print-childrens-biographies-repudiate-the-bitter-lies-of-todays-uneducated-anti-americans/

Columbus Plan: Sail West to Set up Trading Post to Finance Crusade Against Moors !

El Aemer El Mujaddid September 24, 2016

1400031915-1

Less well known was a voyage by Columbus to the Gold Coast in West Africa in 1481, sponsored by King John II of Portugal. In contrast to the Eurocentric myth of disorder and barbarism prevalent in Africa, during this voyage Columbus encountered civilized communities and well-established states with very complex social, political, and economic structures. At the time of Columbus’s visit, the most impressive medieval Muslim Moorish (West African) empire, Songhay, was still in existence. Its noted center of scholarship, Timbuktu, the home of the world-renowned higher educational institution, the Sankoré University, still possessed a great deal of its splendor. Columbus who visited the Portuguese fortress of Elmina on the Gold Coast, was impressed by the riches of the land, especially its gold. But as an explorer, Columbus learned valuable lessens in geography and oceanography.

This undoubtedly sparked his interest in a voyage westward across the Atlantic, which he erroneously believed would take him to India and establish direct access to the coveted riches of the Orient. More importantly, Columbus’s voyage to West Africa may have laid the groundwork for the first contact between that part of Africa and the Americas. A few West Africans were said to have returned with him to Europe and eventually accompanied him on his voyages to the New World between 1492 and 1504. Some scholars, however, have suggested the possibility of an African presence in the Americas before the arrival of Columbus.

changer-1

The argument is that some West African people, probably from the Senegambia area, were known to Native Americans prior to arrival of Columbus. The most forceful argument along these lines has been provided by Rutgers linguist and anthropologist Ivan Van Sertima, who marshalled an array of archaeological, historical, and botanical evidence to argue his case. The United States and West Africa: Interactions and Relations pg. 18 Because Columbus has been such an important figure in the collective imagination of Americans, what we make of him affects both how we view our history and imagine our future. In what follows, I wish, first to detangle Columbus’s motivations from the accusations that have been brought against him and then to trace briefly the apocalyptic scenario and the place of Jerusalem that figured so centrally to his quest. To distance ourselves from his religious views obscures how deeply influential they have been, and continue to be in our national and political consciousness. Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem: How Religion Drove the Voyages that Led to America pg. 236

The principal factor which governed Columbus’s life and motivated his activities was—as he put it in a letter to the Spanish monarchs—to spread the light of the Gospel throughout the world and enlist the newly converted peoples in the life-and-death war with the empire of Muhammad. His ultimate goals included the “recovery” of the Holy Land, especially Jerusalem, in preparation for the Kingdom of God. In fact, it was his deep religious convictions in prophecy which, according to The New Millennial Manual, enabled him to convince Ferdinand and Isabella to finance his “Enterprise of the Indies.” And the “Enterprise” was to be the first stage in a new Crusade which would enable the Spanish monarchs to “recapture” the Holy Land and restore the Christian faith there. Throughout his life, Columbus insisted that Providence was always guiding his steps and directing his efforts.

In fact, at the end of his first voyage, and in a letter to the Spanish court dated February 15, 1492, Columbus said that the Bible was his lifetime roadmap for the fulfillment of divine prophecies and the rebuilding of Zion. This letter was subsequently printed and translated into many European languages. In it, Columbus summed up his global program “to conquer the world, spread the Christian faith, and regain the Holy Land and the Temple Mount.” During the last voyage (1502-04), Columbus recorded in his journals that he heard voices and saw visions of God urging him on to carry out His mission. This belief in a Providential mission is what motivated Columbus to so relentlessly pursue his project of the “Enterprise of the Indies.” He wrote:

Who would doubt that this light, which urged me on with a great haste continuously, without a moment’s pause, came to you in a most deep manner, as it did to me? In this my voyage to the Indies, Our Lord wished to perform [a] very evident miracle in order to console me and others in the matter of this other voyage to the Holy Sepulcher [Jerusalem]. To realize the originality as well as the significance of Columbus’s missionary efforts and zeal to fulfill the “prophecies,” one should remember that his campaign preceded the Protestant Reformation and the resulting emphasis on Old Testament prophecies and missionary drive.

This zeal and literal interpretation of sacred prophecies led Delno West to describe Columbus as “the first American hero with all the rights and privileges, myths and legends, and criticisms the title carries.” In his obsession with the rebuilding of Zion and the preparation for the Coming Kingdom, Columbus anticipated the early Puritan settlers of the New World, the nineteenth-century end-times churches and missionary establishment, and the present-day American grand plans for the world. In essence, Columbus’s program is a roadmap for the modern campaign of the Christian Right in America today.

Columbus Plan: Sail West to Set up Trading Post to Finance Crusade Against Moors !