Friday, October 11th, 2021 --
In 1492 Christopher Columbus embarked on a voyage to discover new shipping routes for the Spanish crown in an effort to undermine their competition the Indian Trading Company. Instead of sailing around the world to Asia, he discovered a new continent, a new people, a new world. Today we look back on Columbus’ discovery with less nuance and more cold bitter disdain. While Columbus was certainly not the first European to step foot on the American continent, nor the first to discover it, his discovery opened the floodgates for European refugees seeking a new start. The only problem was the land was already claimed.
When Columbus died in May of 1506 less than 2,000 Europeans annually made the dangerous voyage across the Atlantic. By 1640 almost half a million Europeans had escaped their disease-ravaged, war-torn, and starving homes. Today we would call these people refugees; displaced by powers at being, and not by choice. The reality is many who took the risky 3-month sail in a crowded ship, came to a foreign place not to wage war against the indigenous people but to start anew. The devastation that came after their arrival could have been perceived as nothing more than an act of God. Remember this is a time before inoculation.
However, as much of our nation celebrates Columbus Day, several states have decided to not honor the voyage of Christopher Columbus to the new world. We have even witnessed the destruction of a Columbus statue in front of our State Capitol. As a sailor, I admire his quest for adventure on the high seas and challenging conventional beliefs. Yes, Leif Erikson beat him by 500 years. And yes, hunters from Asia came here 15 millennia prior to Leif. And yes, Columbus may have died still believing he had found a new route to Indonesia. It may no longer be PC, but a majority of our country still celebrates this milestone in history. We learn from mistakes, not by whitewashing history, but by discussing the good and the bad.
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Thank you for being engaged in your government,
State Representative, 23B
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