In fourteen-hundred-ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, and slaughtered or enslaved every native he encountered, and took all their gold, and then eventually got a national holiday.
Sometimes The Oatmeal is off, and sometimes he’s way off, and sometimes he’s dead on, as when he points out that Christopher Columbus was a greedy, murderous, imperialist monster and that celebrating him with a national holiday in the same way we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., is ridiculously messed up. In anticipation of Monday’s U.S. Columbus Day observance, he lays out the true history of Columbus’s “explorations,” particularly his decimation of the Lucayan natives of the Bahamas.
The point I’m trying to drive home is this: Christopher Columbus was awful. He discovered the New World much like a meteorite discovered the dinosaurs.
And good ol’ Chris Columbus, sex slaver, mass murderer, and champion of sociopathic imperialism, HAS HIS OWN FEDERAL HOLIDAY. This is an honor shared by Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.
I repeat: THE FATHER OF THE TRANSATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE IS HONORED ON THE SAME LEVEL AS ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
The Oatmeal suggests a better way to celebrate October 14 — “History is full of terrible people and terrible things, so instead of casting a shadow where there is already darkness, I’d much prefer to cast a light,” he says. For him, that’s Bartolome de las Casas, another rich, violent European imperialist.
Unlike Columbus, however, de las Casas underwent a radical transformation in his life. After witnessing the violent atrocities committed against the Natives, he gave up his land, freed his slaves, became a priest, and spent the rest of his life fighting the brutal colonization of the New World.
The only way he could make peace with the horrors he witnessed was to try and help as many people as possible.
His stand against the cruelty and imperialism of the Spanish Crown eventually earned him the title of “Defender of the Indians,” and Bartolome de las Casas spent the next 50 years fighting for their equality.
He is considered to be one of the first advocates for universal human rights.
So I’m with The Oatmeal. If we can’t make October 14 Folks Who Stayed Home And Didn’t Try To Fill Their Pocket With The Blood Of Native Peoples Day — or maybe Victims of European Imperialist “Explorers” Day — then Bartolome de las Casas sounds like a worthy subject of a national holiday. The world needs less misleading, self-serving, sanitized history lessons and more elementary school coloring sheets featuring 15th-century human rights advocates.