To the Editor,
It is with dismay that I respond to Mr. Clifford Jackson’s letter in your Nov. 8 edition, portraying Christopher Columbus as villain. Typical of all revisionists is the gross overreaching from one circumstance in history to another subsequent one and the application of 21st century thinking to 15th century behavior. In this regard, Mr. Jackson doesn’t miss a beat.
To say Columbus’ voyage led to “crimes against humanity, the genocide of the so-called Native Americans and opened the floodgates to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade,” is such an incredulous stretch. It reminds me of the analogy that since Jesus Christ brought Christianity to the Roman Empire, millions of Christians were slaughtered in the Coliseum. Columbus, therefore, is not, in any way, responsible for such trade, anymore than Christ is responsible for the annihilation of Christians. Columbus discovered America in 1492. The Trans-Atlantic slave trade did not begin in earnest until the 17th century.
Columbus was a “lost soul” on a “lost voyage?” In the 15th century when the age of exploration began, Europeans did not know anything about lands in the Western Hemisphere. Not until Columbus hypothesized through scientific thinking that there could be lands to the west since it was known there were lands north, south, and east, and tested his thinking by actually sailing west, did Europeans realize that what Columbus discovered was actually a new continent. He wasn’t lost. To say his discovery was erroneous is applying 21st century thinking by one who now knows there is a continent to the west. For Europeans at the time it was truly a learning experience.
Columbus committed genocide? He made only four voyages to the Caribbean, stayed no more than a few months and more or less discovered and landed on islands. How could these experiences have led to the “extermination of five million Indians” from 1498 to 1502? It took Hitler 12 years to kill six million Jews in countries with far more land area than a few islands. Columbus could never have the time to kill that many.
As far as the capture of Taino Indians, such capture was a result of attacks by four of the five Taino tribes on the islands. As was typical in those days, the victor sold his vanquished to slavery. All societies did it. It should also be noted that the Caribbean and South American Indians, namely the Aztecs and the Incas, did exactly the same thing. In fact, the Arawaks, the Caribs and the Canibs also ate their captured enemies or used them in human sacrifices. Is it any wonder that we get the word “cannibalism” from the Canibs? So, let’s not look at one side of the story.
As far as contracting disease, Mr. Jackson should add that the Europeans contracted tuberculosis and syphilis from the Indians. Invariably, disease is always a consequence of human contact, especially in an age of sparse medical advancement.
So, Columbus was not innately evil or responsible for such horror on a grand scale as Mr. Jackson would have us believe. A close scrutiny of the facts evinces something quite different.
Louis J. Gallo, Jr.,
State chairman of the Commission for Social Justice;
Anti-defamation branch of the Order Sons of Italy in America