Cranky writing is best writing!
The only reason why we started celebrating “Columbus Day” was to make the Irish and Italians feel like Catholics can be real Americans, too, not just Protestants.
“Columbus Day” isn’t really about celebrating Columbus. Not as a person. Nobody says, “Read this biography of a great man from infancy to dotage and try to be more like him!” Columbus day is about celebrating what Columbus did–find a New World and launch the Age of Exploration and discovery.
Do I care about Columbus Day? No. Don’t be silly. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who actually celebrates Columbus Day, but maybe the Italians are really into it. If so, I don’t begrudge them a holiday. However, I do care about Columbus’s accomplishments.
“But Columbus was an idiot who only found the New World by accident!” I hear someone protest.
Yeah, well, I don’t see you discovering any continents lately. Where does that put you on the intellect ladder? Also, Penicillin was discovered by accident, so I guess it doesn’t count, either.
Here, I’ll take all of the penicillin, and you can go play with rodents. We’ll see which of us survives the longest.
“But Columbus was an asshole,” someone protests. “He conquered and enslaved people!”
Guys, it was the 14 hundreds. Pretty much EVERYBODY in the 1400s thought it was okay to conquer and enslave people. If you start applying modern standards to people from the 1400s, you’ll discover that none of them meet your standards.
You want to celebrate “Indigenous Culture Day” instead of Columbus Day? Do you know what kind of assholes indigenous cultures were full of?
Let’s hear it for the Aztecs, one of those peaceful wonderful indigenous cultures Columbus’s Spanish employers went and conquered as a result of his voyages.
They liked to rip people’s beating hearts out of their bodies as human sacrifices to their gods.
The Spaniard’s pigs, however, they just killed and threw in a well. WTF do you do with one of those things? They didn’t know. Humans, however, they knew what to do with: eat them.
The Wikipedia records many documented cases of Aztec cannibalism:
- Hernán Cortés wrote in one of his letters that his soldiers had captured an indigenous man who had a roasted baby ready for breakfast.
- Francisco López de Gómara (c. 1511 – c. 1566) reported that, during the siege of Tenochtitlan, the Spaniards asked the Aztecs to surrender since they had no food. The Aztecs angrily challenged the Spaniards to attack so they could be taken as prisoners, sacrificed and served with “molli” sauce.
- The Historia general… contains an illustration of an Aztec being cooked by an unknown tribe. This was reported as one of the dangers that Aztec traders faced. …Bernal Díaz’s The Conquest of New Spain (written by 1568, published 1632) contains several accounts of cannibalism among the people the conquistadors encountered during their warring expedition to Tenochtitlan.
- About the city of Cholula, Díaz wrote of his shock at seeing young men in cages ready to be sacrificed and eaten.
- In the same work Diaz mentions that the Cholulan and Aztec warriors were so confident of victory against the conquistadors in an upcoming battle the following day, that “…they wished to kill us and eat our flesh, and had already prepared the pots with salt and peppers and tomatoes”
- About the Quetzalcoatl temple of Tenochtitlan Díaz wrote that inside there were large pots, where human flesh of sacrificed Natives was boiled and cooked to feed the priests.
- About the Mesoamerican towns in general Díaz wrote that some of the indigenous people he saw were—:
“ eating human meat, just like we take cows from the butcher’s shops, and they have in all towns thick wooden jail-houses, like cages, and in them they put many Indian men, women and boys to fatten, and being fattened they sacrificed and ate them. ” “ Thus there were public butcher’s shops of human flesh, as if it were of cow or sheep.
Is that what you want to fucking celebrate? THIS IS WHAT YOU THINK WAS BETTER THAN COLUMBUS?
No, hunter-gatherers were not peaceful paragons of gender equality. Stop fucking saying that. It is a lie. There is no evidence to back it up. Primitive, pre-modern societies had absolutely atrocious crime rates. There are real live fucking cannibals living right now in the Congo rainforest. They eat the Pygmies (and each other.)
And this is supposed to be my fault? “White privilege” is the magic sauce that explains why some cultures produce penicillin and others produce cannibals.
When Captain John Smith of Jamestown fame inquired about the fate of the lost Roanoke Colony, Chief Powhatan–you know, the Pocahontas’s dad, the guy who’d tried to kill John Smith–confessed to having massacred them all. Historians aren’t sure if this is actually true–Powhatan might have just confused them with some other guys he’d massacred–but the fact remains that Powhatan and his people went around massacring their neighbors regularly enough that, “Oh yeah, we killed them all,” was seen as a reasonable explanation by everyone involved.
It wasn’t too many years later that the Powhatan tried to do the same thing to Jamestown, killing about a quarter of the people there.
Celebrating Columbus was never about Columbus, and denigrating Columbus isn’t about Columbus, either. Celebrating Columbus is about celebrating American history and the contributions of Catholic-Americans to that history; denigrating Columbus is about denigrating American history and European contributions to it.
Who should be the America’s moral superior and successor? Whose successes should we celebrate instead of Columbus’s? Should the people of Mexico overthrow the culture of their evil oppressors and go back to holding human sacrifices in the middle of Mexico City?
Funny, I don’t see a lot of people trying to go live in Mexico, much less return to the actual lives of their indigenous ancestors. Most people seem to like having things like penicillin, cell phones, cars, air conditioning and sewers, and dislike things like cannibalism and constant tribal warfare. The process by which civilization was made was not pretty, but civilization is good and we should celebrate it.
We should not attack people’s cultural heroes just to denigrate their nation.
Oh, and happy Thanksgiving, since the backlog means that this post isn’t going up for a month.