"Dad, why does America celebrate Columbus Day?"
"Well, Billy, in 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed from Europe to America
and founded the very first settlement in the New World. His arrival marks the
beginning of America as we know it."
"But didn't he discover America by accident, dad?"
"Columbus believed the Earth was a sphere. He thought he could reach the Far
East by setting off on a westward course. Though he stumbled upon what is
now the Bahamas by accident, he was still a great explorer and a great man,
"A great man, dad, or a racist oppressor?"
"Pardon me, son?"
"When Columbus came to America, he brought with him the greed of the white
European males who subsequently colonized America for the dough. They fought
and killed the Indigenous Peoples who were already here and took their land
and their gold. Columbus eventually died a very rich man."
"Well, Billy, an unfortunate part of human history involves countries
invading their neighbors to take control. This has happened in many parts of the
world, including Europe, which has a long history of war. But remember that
Indigenous Peoples were also prone to war and fighting to expand their control
well before Europeans arrived."
"Well, Columbus is also responsible for many germs and diseases that
Europeans brought to America, causing untold suffering and death among the people
who were here before us."
"Have you been drinking too much caffeine lately, Billy?"
"America's history of environmental destruction can also be laid at
Columbus' feet, dad. As soon as the Europeans colonized America's pristine lands,
they cut down the trees and plowed up the fields. Can you say soil erosion,
"Son, did I ever tell you that you take after your mother's side?"
"And what about slavery? It was the Europeans who created a flourishing
slave trade in America. They did it to develop the land cheaply, so they could
make giant profits. Columbus even made slaves out of some of the Indigenous
Peoples who attacked him and his men."
"Son, do you remember where your mother hid the bourbon?"
"I'll tell you another thing, dad. Some people believe the only reason we
even celebrate Columbus Day is because he was Italian, and the day is also a
celebration of Italian heritage. Some believe that when FDR made Columbus Day
official in 1934, he did so not just because Columbus discovered the New World,
but because Italian immigrants in America represented millions of votes."
"Look, Billy, there are a lot of ways to look at what Christopher Columbus
symbolizes. You can focus on the negative attributes, and there are some, or
you can do what America has been doing for many years now: focus on the
"Sure, Billy. Columbus represents the spirit of exploration, the spirit of
pushing forward into the great unknown to find greater and better things. This
has always been the spirit of America, the land of innovation and new
"What kind of ideas, dad?"
"How about the ideas of freedom and self-government, Billy? After Columbus
opened a gateway to the New World, other European countries established
colonies here, too. Eventually, some amazing historical figures would evolve in
North America. They would create and fight for a way of life that has proved to
be extremely successful - their ideas are still spreading and changing the
world for the better."
"Yes, son. The concept of freedom has taken root so solidly in America that
people are free to criticize or praise anything, including whether or not
Christopher Columbus was a hero or an ogre, or whether or not Columbus Day
should still be celebrated in America. Now, do you have any other questions about
"Sure, dad. Was Benjamin Franklin really a predatory male chauvinist