by: Rob Yates, LPNC Communications Director
Christopher Columbus was a genocidal maniac, murdering, raping, pillaging, enslaving, and wiping out entire populations. Everything we learned in school, starting with “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” and ending with Columbus discovering the new world, is completely wrong. We should not rest until every single statue of him is torn down, and anyone who does not eschew Columbus Day and give land acknowledgments to displaced tribes is a demon.
Unless Columbus was actually a great man, loathed solely because he personifies Western culture. He was a brave explorer who selflessly and courageously sought a trade route by sea to East Asia. His morals were his guide, as he was a dedicated Christian and man of God, concerned first with serving the Lord and his fellow man. And he should be venerated with a day in his dedication and anyone who disagrees deserves to be expelled from the country in shame.
That about sums up the two current perspectives on Christopher Columbus, neither of which matter at all until we get to Columbus Day, aka Indigenous People Day. Then everyone has to virtue signal as loudly as they can for a day, making sure the whole world knows which side of the fence they fall on, respectively.
I am here to tell you this is stupid, and you should be supporting Columbus Day. It doesn’t matter what you think of Christopher Columbus. In fact Chris the Conqueror has almost nothing to do with the day bearing his namesake except that he happens to be Italian.
The first celebration of Columbus Day, or at least a holiday to mark his arrival in the Americas, was in 1792, hosted by the Columbian Order of New York, commemorating the 300th anniversary of his arrival. Over the next 100 years, the holiday was celebrated haphazardly – and unofficially – until 1892, when President Benjamin Harrison held the first national Columbus Day celebration to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his landing in the Americas.
Harrison made this an official holiday for a particularly harrowing reason. In 1891, the prior year, eleven Sicilian immigrants were murdered in a savage lynching in New Orleans at the height of anti-Italian sentiment in the country. The details of the attack are too gruesome to put into a distinguished family publication like the Tar Heel, but rest assured, they are atrocious. It actually created a diplomatic crisis with Italy. The attack was so supported by politicians, blinded by hatred for Italians, that the conspirators were said to operate essentially out in the open with no fear of reprisal. Essentially, the government signed off on it.
Over the next 50 years, Columbus Day remained a haphazardly celebrated holiday until WWII, when Italians were designated “enemy aliens.” Again, the government went after Italians for being Italian, despite the numerous contributions and commitments they had made, broadly, to the growth of the United States (including their role in ending prohibition).
FDR again made Columbus Day a federal holiday as a mea culpa, this time for the government’s racist stereotyping of an entire people for who they were. This was done annually but not permanently until 1972, when Nixon established the modern holiday by presidential proclamation.
So before you go trashing Columbus Day, remember that it exists far less to honor the man himself, a controversial and complicated figure with a nuanced history, some of it awful and some of it magnificent, all wrapped up in the context of the time 600 years ago, a setting none of us can truly imagine. Instead, think of it as a holiday that stands as a testament to the egregious acts of the government against Italians in the United States, and make sure to wish someone a “Happy Columbus Day!”