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!

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