Thoughts On Columbus Without Research

by thoughtsonthedead

  • In fourten-hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
  • That’s the rhyme about the genocidal guy that we teach to children.
  • Ring around the rosie, pocket full of posies.
  • That’s the rhyme about the plague we teach children.
  • Maybe we should stop teaching children things.
  • Just for a generation: see what happens when the little fuckers have to figure things out on their own.
  • Ahem.
  • Columbus was named Christopher Columbus, but he was also named Cristobal Colon: they may or may not have translated people’s names back then.
  • He left his journals and they’re fairly explicit about how well the natives would take to a good slavin’ up.
  • He also was convinced there was gold everywhere: he was like Scrooge McDuck, but with more slaughter of the indigenous.
  • There are major gaps in his biography that might never get filled in: Columbus had very small social media presence and, in the absence of tweets, likes, and crazy manifestos, we’ll never know the real guy.
  • He was a dick.
  • We do know that.
  • The foundation of this dickery, and the details of said dickery, elude us; that he was a dick is ours to grasp.
  • Anyway: he was from Genoa (we’re mostly sure) which is now in Italy, but was then a city-state sort of thing.
  • I am fairly confident in saying that the city was roiled constantly by the political machinations of rival wealthy families.
  • Okay, fine: you could say that about everywhere, but I think there was some serious intrigue going on.
  • Also: everything was covered in shit, as it was the Fifteenth century.
  • Columbus didn’t come from nothing, but he also did not have enough money to fund an expedition across the ocean.
  • In his defense, not many people did.
  • Plus, there was no crowdfunding back then.
  • He went to Isabelle and Ferdinand(?) of Spain and they were all, “Si.”
  • Actually, it was Spain so they said “Thi.”
  • Everybody else had passed on Columbus’ venture, and most of it was because everyone else thought Columbus was a loon.
  • Europeans might not have known just what was over the horizon to the west, but they did know how far it was around the sphere that is Earth.
  • Eratosthenes figured out the size of the Earth a long time ago.
  • So long, in fact, that people were still being named “Eratosthenes.”
  • Columbus disagreed with Eratosthenes, who had the math on his side; Columbus thought the world was far smaller than it was.
  • And the well-educated monks and priests who advised the semi-educated royalty of Europe shook their heads discreetly in the back of the court, and the King said no.
  • Queen Isabelle of Spain won the first round of VC funding by default, I guess.
  • There was probably some intrigue or backstory behind her decision.
  • Books and books worth, in fact.
  • I believe in the ideals of Without Research.
  • So let’s just say that Queen Isabelle woke up from her three-hour afternoon nap, got all hopped up on sangria and tapas, and made it rain on Christopher Columbus.
  • Get that money, CC.
  • Columbus took this money and built (bought? leased?) three ships whose names are still known far and wide: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Clara.
  • It is at this point that I–and any honest observer–must give Columbus at least a small bit of respect and perhaps admiration.
  • “Steer the boat west, sailor.”
  • “Aye, Cap’n. Could you be a bit more specific?”
  • “No.”
  • “Aye, Cap’n.”
  • That takes balls, at the very least.
  • And only balls: there were no women amongst the crew.
  • Because Columbus was also sexist.
  • You didn’t know that, did you?
  • You didn’t even know that sexism was a thing in 1492.
  • You learned something.
  • The crew and Columbus take off west and the journey takes between ten days and a year.
  • Somewhere in there.
  • Longer than you’d like to be on a boat in 1492 in the middle of the ocean.
  • There was no ice-skating rink, nor was there a rock-climbing wall.
  • Or toilets.
  • There is no way person ion 2015 can imagine what those ships smelled like.
  • Like, if a skunk exploded, but the skunk was made out of unwiped assholes.
  • Now, they weren’t sailing blindly into madness: Europeans knew there was something over here.
  • Vikings had been here, a couple small French parties – there were maps with the East Coast vaguely described on them from before Columbus’ first voyage.
  • And Chris never got near the States: he landed in what he named Hispaniola, which is Spanish for “Fancy Spain.”
  • There was also some other stuff.
  • The stealing and raping and pillaging and murdering and all the other things sailors away from home will get up to.
  • But it was the sneezing and shitting that was the real problem.
  • The folks who lived in the New World had no immunity to the various diseases of the Europeans.
  • This proved a poor tactical decision.
  • Scientists and smart people who know things about stuff now think that the Americas might have had 100 million people living here in, say, 1450.
  • People who–and this really cannot be overstated–were completely minding their own business.
  • They did not ring Europe’s doorbell and then run away before Europe could answer the door.
  • Nor did they order many unwanted pizzas to Europe.
  • Just being people, doing their thing, living their lives.
  • BOOM: White people out of nowhere.
  • Like Theismann getting his leg broken by Lawrence Taylor.
  • Didn’t see it coming.
  • Columbus did four voyages in total and fell out of favor; towards the end, he earned a living signing autographs at Explorer’s Conventions.
  • The flood gates were opened, though: more and more Conquistadors came, and then colonists; other countries got in on the fad quickly and they brought hepatitis and brucellosis and leishmaniasis.
  • And the granddaddy of ’em all.
  • Good ol’ smallpox.
  • And by the time the Pilgrims showed up, the place looked like a nightclub on a Tuesday night: there were some people, but it wasn’t exactly a crowd.
  • Christopher Columbus was just one asshole, and it takes more than one asshole to change the world.
  • Hitler was an asshole, but if the Allies had been slightly less dickish when writing up the Treaty of Versailles, then Hitler would have spent his life blaming the Jews at the local biergarten.
  • (An aside: the Treaty of Versailles is hilarious in its stupidity. It’s basically France doing that thing where you squat over someone and dip your balls onto their face to Germany.)
  • Columbus was a man of his times and acted in accordance with the customs, ethics, and beliefs of his time.
  • He wasn’t Hitler: he didn’t get on that boat to go kill people.
  • Columbus was a businessman, and he was looking for new resources.
  • He just happened to see people as resources.
  • This would have been the belief of any of his peers.
  • Just a guy trying to make a buck; not Hitler.
  • But here’s the thing: we don’t need to have a national holiday celebrating someone not being Hitler.
  • Lots of people aren’t Hitler.
  • I’m not Hitler.
  • You’re not Hitler.
  • “Not Hitler” is not a compliment.
  • It is certainly not a reason to close the post office.
  • No, Christopher Columbus didn’t intentionally start the chain of events that led to a continent dying.
  • But he still, you know: did.
  • So maybe we can rename the holiday, or maybe we don’t have to.
  • Let’s just celebrate the life of director Chris Columbus, who’s given us such classics as Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone, and several of the Harry Potter movies.
  • I’m fairly sure director Chris Columbus did not kick off Colonialism.
  • Plus, we wouldn’t even have to change the calendars.
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