Looking at History

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Christopher Columbus at the time he discovered America in 1492.

Christopher Columbus

By Josh Resnek

Columbus Day brings to mind the commemoration of a man and a time when the world was still cloaked in superstition and darkness.

It also brings to mind from year to year the boldness of this man’s effort to navigate the known world and to discover other worlds.

In 1492, when Columbus set-off to discover the New World, most of the people watching his ships sail off to the horizon leaving Spain believed they’d fall off the horizon and disappear.

Much of the world’s population believed the world was flat when Columbus left on his epic journey.

Columbus knew better.

He was then, the world’s most accomplished navigator, ever, bar none.

This Italian explorer, navigator and colonist completed four voyages across the Atlantic leading the first expeditions to the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

No one sailing a ship could match Columbus’ skills as a navigator.

How he sailed the Atlantic, how he came to Hispaniola, how he discovered the New World against tremendous odds is told with unsurpassable skill and simplicity by the great 18th Century author Washington Irving in his two volume set titled: Christopher Columbus.

He is credited with initiating the first permanent European colonization of America and with opening the Americas to conquest and settlement. During the modern era Columbus has been weathering a terrible revisionist storm.

Modernists love re-writing history.

They delight in creating new narratives that provide modern twists to old stories.

Columbus has morphed from being the greatest navigator and sailor of his time to an often reviled character chastised for considering the Indians he came in contact with as savages.

Columbus was tough on the Indians, but then, the Indians wanted no part of the Europeans who came to expand their world.

The Indians fought and killed many early explorers and their crews and Columbus did the same to the Indians.

When Columbus lands at Hispaniola after crossing the Atlantic, he takes his septre and plants it in the sand and then he says: “We have come to bring Jesus Christ to the savages and to search for cities of gold.”

Columbus’ exploits set the stage for a long period of exploration and conquest that lasted for centuries.

His legacy continues to be debated.

He is reviled for his role in the extinction of the Taino people and his promotion of slavery.

But his courage and fervor as an explorer and his discovery of America outweighs the modern negativity that abounds about him among the politically correct.

He was among the greatest of the Italians of that era, of any era, and on Columbus Day next Monday we celebrate his life and his discoveries as well as his bravery and his vision.

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