“In fourteen hundred 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.
A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.
Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.
Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.
Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.
October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!
“Indians! Indians!” Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.
But “India” the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.
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.
The first American? No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright”
I’m sure there are plenty of others, but I can say with certainty that this is easily my favorite rap song about Christopher Columbus.
As I sit here in drunken preparation for the the Red Sox/Yankees ALDS game, I can’t help but think about the guy because today is Columbus Day. The notoriety of Columbus has been well known by historians for quite some time now, but in recent years the celebration of Columbus Day has been questioned and condemned a lot more than it used to. In fact, in neighboring Cambridge and Somerville Massachusetts, I couldn’t help but notice they have started calling it today Indigenous People’s Day instead.
So why do people hate this guy exactly? Well allow me to try to explain the only way I know how: Another Some White Kid history lesson.
The year was 1492, and after a night filled with drinking wine, speaking with aggressive hand gestures, and eating pizza, Christopher Columbus made a drunken bet with his friend, Fat Tony, that he could find India before he could.
Wasting no time, Columbus assembled his crew, stole 3 boats (The Nina, The Penis, and the Santa Maria), and set sail on the high seas. Fat Tony had actually blacked out the night before and stayed behind in Italy because he didn’t remember making the bet, so Columbus trying to find India was actually just a huge waste of his time.
After months at sea, the crew began to worry that Columbus had no idea where they were going, and they were right. Columbus had actually dropped the map overboard shortly after leaving Italy, and seeing as he cheated his way through exploring school, he didn’t know how to use a compass. One of his crew members suggested that they follow The North Star, which Columbus took as an insult and immediately threw the man overboard just like his map. Similar to a dad on a road trip, he refused to admit he was lost and just kept going without ever considering to stop to ask for directions.
Just when he was about to turn the boats around and admit defeat to Fat Tony, one of the crew members shouted, “Land!”. They were all unsure if it was really land or just a mirage, mainly because they had been drinking seawater the entire trip and were all more dehydrated than hungover Ethiopians eating a bag of extra salty pretzels.
The ships crashed ashore, and they were greeted by what we now know were Native Americans. Columbus, thinking he was in India, instinctually called them Indians. Seeing as the two groups didn’t speak the same language, nobody corrected him and that’s why we still call them Indians to this day.
Now here’s where the story reveals why a lot of people hate Columbus. Shortly after landing, Columbus decided to put the locals to work. He offered them all fantastic jobs with long hours and zero benefits, and the only catch was that they didn’t get paid for any of their work. It’s safe to say he was also quite a stickler for the rules. For example, if you didn’t collect enough gold to fill the daily quota, he would chop your hands off. If you refused to work at all, he killed you. Now I’ve had plenty of dickhead bosses over the years, but Columbus makes them seem like pushovers. If I was unfortunate enough to be employed by Columbus, I would definitely oversleep, show up to the gold mine 3 hours late, and then end up getting shot in the dick with an arrow faster than you can say, “I’m not a reliable employee”.
He also did a lot of raping and pillaging, but I’m gonna play Devil’s Advocate really quickly and say that this is the 1400’s we’re talking about here. Raping and pillaging was just kinda what you did back then in your spare time, similar to completing a crossword puzzle or whatever people do today. Riding around on ships, conquering natives, and stealing their resources was just another mundane day of the week. Back then, that was just guys being dudes.
Shockingly, When it comes to the whole “Let’s get rid of Columbus Day” thing, I’m not onboard. It’s not I worship the guy or anything, but changing the names of holidays is stupid for so many reasons.
For starters, the problem with comparing how somebody behaved over 500 years ago with how people are supposed to behave today is that it just isn’t pragmatic at all. If we sit around and constantly apply our present day moral standards to the past, every major historical figure ever would be viewed as an asshole for one thing or another. Hell, even Jesus probably did some things back then that would make people upset today.
So yeah, Columbus conquered people and treated them like shit. Big deal. There’s nothing new or surprising about that if you’ve ever opened a history book. It was the 1400’s and laws didn’t even exist yet. So obviously looking back on it now the guy was kind of a dick, but he was just doing what everybody at that time was about. This was the Exploration Age, and unfortunately there were winners and losers. “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it”, so maybe instead of just bitching about the name of a holiday, we should use it as a reminder to not let this shit happen again.
Also, renaming it Indigenous People’s Day doesn’t make sense either by the way. They lost! They don’t deserve a holiday as a participation trophy, and seeing as Columbus got all of us plenty of Monday’s off from school while growing up, I think he deserves to keep his holiday. After all, Columbus and his crew ended up just being immigrants that came to America for a better life, so it would have been very selfish for the natives to turn them away, right?
Happy Columbus Day everybody!
I’m sure there’s a stupid protest happening somewhere in Boston today, seeing as they already vandalized the statue. Where are Tony and his friends when you need them?
PS: Talk about ironic that the Indians got smoked by the Houston Astros, the Braves lost, and the Redskins are currently losing to the Saints on Columbus Day. I guess no matter how many years go by, Columbus Day will just always be a tough day to wear feathers.