Happy Columbus Day?

October 09, 2006

To put Columbus Day in perspective, Ethics Daily reran a column by Miguel De La Torre that is entitled “Columbus Day No Reason to Celebrate.” It is a sobering account of some of the horrors of American history that are usually left out of the school textbooks. Here are a few parts of the column:

Women were raped. Children were disemboweled. Men fell prey to the invaders’ swords. Within a generation, the lives and cultures of the indigenous people of the Americas were forever changed. Avarice for gold and glory took its course and decimated the population.

... Yet, I find it somewhat surprising that we “celebrate” what is believed to be the start of one of the largest acts of genocide ever recorded in human history.

As some of my Native American friends inform me, to celebrate Columbus Day is as morally repugnant to them as it would be for Jews if we as a nation chose to celebrate Kristallnacht, the start of the Nazi-driven Holocaust.

... But when the native population protested the rape of their women, Columbus had the noses of all who refused to submit to his authority cut off. In other instances, the indigenous people were castrated and forced to eat their own dirt-encrusted testicles. Or they were simply thrown to the dogs.

... While on the island which the inhabitants called Cubanacan, Las Casas recorded the death of 7,000 children within three months because their overworked mothers were so famished they were unable to produce any milk to nurse them. Babies were also used for target practice.
It is sad that we often attempt to hide our past sins like these. How will we be able as a nation to avoid committing similar injustices if we refuse to learn from—or often even acknowledge—our past moral failures? The worst part of all of this is that it was often done in God’s name. The column continues:

In the name of Christ, butchery, enslavement, thievery and genocide was justified. The Christ proclaimed to the so-called “heathens” was not the Christ of the oppressed, but the Christ of empire, the Christ of militarism, the Christ of power and privilege, the Christ of the dominant culture.
May we as Christians take time on this day not to honor Columbus but to ask God to help us never to take His name in vain by using it to justify killing and brutalizing other people.

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