Monday, October 8, 2007

Christopher Columbus: Brave Explorer or Cruel Conqueror?

Conventional wisdom in the United States hails Christopher Columbus as a great explorer who sought a shorter route to the eastern world by traveling west at a time when most people believed the world to be flat. He is credited with 'discovering' the Americas, though it is difficult to imagine how a land can be discovered when it is already inhabited.

Today, in honor of Columbus Day, we should take a moment to reflect upon the realities of the historical events surrounding Columbus' journey. October 12, 1492 marked the beginning of a long and violent oppression of the native population of America that led to their near complete eradication, and we should not let this day pass without acknowledging this tragic reality.

Historian Howard Zinn has written at length about the largely untold story of American history in his acclaimed "A People's History of the United States" and its supplement, "Voices of a People's History of the United States", which includes many of the primary historical documents that Zinn references in the former.

It is important-- not only with regards to Columbus, but for other critical topics as well-- to question the 'official' story fed to children by their teachers, to citizens by their media, and to people by their governments. 'History is written by the victor', as they say, but we would do well to remember another history as well-- that of the loser. By learning the stories of the oppressed and the subjugated we can be better equipped to oppose similar atrocities in the future.

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