Every year in October Americans celebrate a national holiday, called “Columbus Day”. This day is in honor of the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, who on October 12th in 1492 supposedly discovered a “New World” called America. Actually, Columbus never went to what is now the United States of America, what he really discovered in October of 1492 were the islands of the Bahamas, a few hundred kilometers east of what is now the American state of Florida. So, why should Americans celebrate someone who never even visited their country and who lived almost 300 years before the birth of the United States in 1776?
For many people, even though Columbus was not an American and never visited any land of what is now the U.S.A., he is nonetheless considered an American hero simply because they believe he did something great. He was a bold explorer who used the stars to guide three ships across a big ocean and discovered America. Moreover, every American school child learns to recite the opening words of this playful little poem:
In fourteen ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.
He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.
What American school children usually don’t learn is what Columbus did after he discovered the New World of America. Though most children are never taught to read the whole poem, a few lines down we learn that:
The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.
Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he'd been told.
He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.
So we learn that the natives were very nice and gave Columbus food, but all that Columbus really wanted was gold to bring back to Spain. History tells us that Columbus didn’t actually trade for his gold. Instead he enslaved many of the nice natives and forced them to search for the gold he wanted. Moreover, on days when they could not find any gold, he ordered many of the friendly natives to be killed as punishment.
While we can all acknowledge that Columbus was a great explorer, and he did indeed discover the New World, there is no need to celebrate him as hero. He certainly was not a hero to the friendly natives who gave him food. Should we celebrate someone who enslaved and killed people, so he could take their gold back to Spain?
教授 ジョン オーエン