Monday, October 10, 2011

Why Columbus Day?

Christopher Columbus gets a very bad rap. He is accused basically of causing every crime ever committed against Indians in North America, mostly by virtue of having shown up. Many want to downgrade his accomplishment because he did not come over first. Only the Italians and conservatives really stick up for the poor captain anymore.

If you are one of the anti-Columbus crowd, remember this. Christopher Columbus did know from his readings of the experts that the world, most likely, was round. Most people's estimates of that distance around would have put Asia around 3,000 miles away. To Columbus, however, all this was theory. It made sense, but was it accurate. He bet his life on it.

Imagine the trip. You assume that land exists 3,000 miles away and you pack provisions for the trip. But if you are not right, that 1,500 mile point in the voyage must be frightening. The courage to believe in the idea and the leadership to keep the expedition together marks Columbus as one of Western Civilization's great heroes.

Once he arrived, his leadership fell apart. The crew preferred to work the local Indians rather than themselves, and thus earned Columbus a tarnished reputation. His responsibility over them only goes so far. We ought to continue to remember his accomplishment and the courage that it took for one man to take a chance with the stakes so high.

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