What Does Columbus Day Represent?
Columbus Day is Oct. 8. I remember observing this holiday with great pride. For me, Columbus represents the spirit of the pioneers, the spirit of adventure, the spirit of discovery.
“The things that haven’t been done before
Those are the things to try; Columbus dreamed of an unknown shore
At the rim of the far-flung sky.” So wrote, Edgar Guest.
Columbus sailed into the unknown, following his dream. He faced ridicule and doubt. He sailed a ferocious sea, on ships filled with fearful men. What he eventually found was not what he expected to find. Still, in the annals of history, Columbus stands as a pioneer, a discoverer and a hero.
Modern times have not been kind to Columbus. We have attempted to rewrite history so that what happened yesterday will conform to today’s customs and beliefs. We need to remember that Columbus, like all of us, was bound by the customs and thinking of his time.
Pioneers, in any age, have not been viewed as practical people. Sailing off into the vast unknown is risky business and doesn’t make sense in a world of reality. Pioneering is seen as a waste of the taxpayer’s dollars. We’d rather spend our money on a sure thing, on something practical.
Columbus was both a pioneer and a discoverer.
In our day, discovering new things is almost commonplace; not so back then. So, what’s so spectacular about Columbus’ discovery of a new world?
In our effort to be politically correct, we want to rewrite the script for Columbus. There were already natives living in this land; yet, Columbus claimed this new world for a foreign power. Columbus was cruel to the native people he found here. He cheated them out of their rightful heritage.
Columbus called them savages. He brought disease and death to these people. He corrupted their morals. His discovery brought deceit, destruction and death. In a more advanced society, Columbus might have known better, or perhaps not. He lived in a different century under a different set of rules. Our rules don’t apply to Columbus.
Columbus was a pioneer, a discoverer and a hero. Our heroes today are CEO’s, superstars, and sports millionaires — people who make millions more than they’re worth, people who use their status and power to control others. In this sense, Columbus could not be considered a hero. What he did was nothing. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean. So what? We cross it with ease every day. We’re hard on our heroes from the past.
As we come to celebrate Columbus Day, let’s consider what this man actually accomplished. Think about what the world was like in 1492 — quite different from our world today. What Columbus did was truly heroic! He dreamed of a world that was round; he staked his life on that belief. When Columbus discovered the New World, he acted appropriately for his day. He claimed the new land for his country; he treated the native people in a very humane way, for his day; he had no concept of or control over disease and how his actions would affect others; he was concerned about survival.
Celebrate Columbus! He lived appropriately for his day. We must live appropriately for our day. We cannot change the past. We cannot correct the past. We can, by the grace of God, learn from the past! Perhaps we should be less concerned about what happened yesterday and more concerned about what’s happening in our world today. God guide us!