Celebrating Columbus

I can hear our young voices now and those of generations of other voices chanting “In fourteen hundred and ninety two Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” words of the poet Jean Marzollo. I was not aware, as a young student, of the poet’s name, but I was very aware of Christopher Columbus. To me, he was a shining hero who left safety and home to seek a path to the east by going west. He was brave, adventurous, and determined. In my family we honored Columbus on October 12 as we did George Washington on his birthday, February 22, and Lincoln on February 12. We knew he was an Italian who relocated to Portugal and then Spain, that he believed the world was round when so many still thought it was flat, that he obtained sponsorship from Queen Isabella to explore the possibility of a newer, safer trade route to the Orient. We knew that, even though Eric the Red of the Vikings, really discovered North America first, Columbus was in the forefront of explorers first setting foot on our continent.

As an adult I learned some more interesting things about my hero, Columbus. For instance, he was a praying man. He kept a journal (I guess he called it a log) and in it are indications of his spiritual journey as he, still a young man, set out in the ships Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria for unknown territory. A couple of his quotes from his journal: “No one should be afraid to take on any enterprise in the name of our Savior if it is right and if the purpose is purely for His holy service” and “He has bestowed the marine arts upon me in abundance.”

Six or seven years ago a replica of one of the three Columbus ships docked at St. Marks in Florida and some of us were able to go down and see it, even go on it and explore its very confined deck. The replica ship, so authentic in every detail (the galley, the captain’s quarters, the deck, sails and ropes) had been on tour for months, even years, docking in many ports in South and Central America as well as the shores of North America. Charles and I enjoyed so much investigating the ship, reading plaques, sharing the time with our granddaughter Amanda and two of her children.

When the “Cancel Culture” wave began I simply could not believe it. It’s bad enough for the critics to dredge up lies about living officials, but to tell lies about Columbus whom many American countries have honored for 500 years? Maybe you, too, have been shocked at the massive move to cancel our history, our culture, including the demolishing of statues of founding fathers, other historical heroes–and even Christopher Columbus. Why? What have “they” found for which to blame my hero Christopher Columbus?

A recent article by Matthew White in American Family Association Journal lists some of the myths (used information from WallBuilders with permission) that have spread and developed on Christopher along with established truths to counteract those myths. For instance, one myth or lie is that Columbus “greedily sought gold so he could get rich.” The historical fact that refutes that is that “Columbus primarily sought gold in order to provide for the needs of the church, both for evangelism and to fund a crusade to retake Jerusalem from Muslim invaders.” Columbus is accused of selling native women into sex slavery when, in fact, he fought against both the native practice of sexual exploitation as well as sex trafficking by Spanish rebels. He actually liberated women of several villages who had been forced into servitude. Critics have even accused Columbus of being “a senile fool who had more luck than brains” as an explorer of the New World. Matthew White states “In addition to being largely self-taught, Columbus was one of the best navigators the world has ever seen. For nearly 400 years scientists and seamen both acknowledged this fact.”

My feelings of pride in my hero Christopher Columbus were reignited as I read that he, even as a teenager, began taking many trading and expeditionary voyages (even as far north as Iceland) learning the Atlantic wind systems and currents. He had a dream early on to set sail to a new land. Here’s what he wrote: “Our Lord opened to my understanding (I could sense His hand upon me) so it became clear to me that it (the voyage) was feasible…All those who heard about my enterprise rejected it with laughter, scoffing at me…Who doubts that this illumination was from the Holy Spirit? I attest that He with marvelous rays of light, consoled me through the holy and sacred Scriptures…they inflame me with a sense of great urgency…”

When I went to get the mail yesterday I realized it was a holiday, Columbus Day, so no mail. I spoke out loud to the cats and the birds as I ambled back to the house, celebrating the fact that my hero is still honored on this day. In some states the holiday has been renamed “Indigenous Peoples Day,” but millions still celebrate Columbus with school holidays. It is, in fact, still a national holiday. Columbus landed on a Bahamian island October 12, 1492. He made three more voyages across the Atlantic and, though he went home in chains once because of accusations by an enemy, he was fully exonerated. He certainly was not perfect. None of our past heroes nor the present ones are. But look at the impact he made on his world as well as our world in his few short years. He died at age 55.

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