Tag Archive | "Christopher Columbus"

That Geographically Clueless SOB, Columbus

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As the famous rhyme goes, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”  Indeed he did, ‘though the rhyme doesn’t mention the little fact that Columbus was waaaaaaaaaaay off course.  Intending to discover a shorter trade route to India, for its prized spices and silks, he pitched his scheme to the Queen of Spain.  Immediately, pesos danced before Her Majesty’s eyes.  Columbus’ eyes, too, for the Queen promptly bankrolled the intrepid explorer’s expedition.  She even outfitted him with three fine sailing vessels, which he christened in honor of his two ex-girlfriends and a long-suffering saint who put the bug in Queen Isabella’s ear: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

While Columbus made off with the loot and the ships, he was duped by the dude who sold him his compass; his fleet wound up navigating the wrong part of the globe.  Thus did Columbus stumble upon a new continent. And that’s when all the trouble started.  A sly fox, he knew how to turn lemons into lemonade.  He figured he could placate the Queen by hauling Chicago back to her.  But, all was not so hunky dory.

In later years, everyone and his brother sought to lay claim to being the first to step foot upon the once beautiful, once unsullied North America.  The Irish claim that one of their own was the first to land here, striking out in a tiny boat that only Divine Intervention could have seen safely upon the fierce Atlantic.  Then again, perhaps the Irishman had been fortified by a wee nip, or more than a wee.

Meanwhile, Nordic people claim evidence of Vikings having landing in the region long before Columbus.  Since Columbus is now vilified in politically correct circles for setting the stage to bilk the Native Americans of their land, I’m surprised that anyone wants to claim having landed here first!

For argument’s sake, let’s say it was those bloodthirsty Vikings.  If Leif Erikson were credited with discovering America, would our land today be known as Erikstadt, Eriksylvania, or Eriksland?  Would the natives have been called Rodemenneskers?  Can you imagine John Wayne’s impassioned, “Rodemennesker!” instead of “Comanche!”?

And would General Gorge Custer’s last words at the Battle of Little Bighorn have been, “Where are all these Rodemenneskers coming from?”  In the time it took him to utter, “Rodemenneskers,” he and his men would have died all the faster.  Maybe this is why we celebrate Columbus in America, and not Leif Erikson.

But, the arguments as to who got here first continue, as do those surrounding Columbus’ true nationality.  I was present in a local tavern when a barroom brawl erupted as to whether the explorer was Portuguese, Spanish, or Italian.  As the argument escalated, more customers got involved, gesticulating wildly, hurling slurs, and making threats.  Patty the bartender could not believe his eyes or ears as he watched good friends and neighbors descend into hostility.  It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy a good fight; he feared for the safety of his establishment.  All those bottles behind the bar did not come cheap!

Taking the bull by the horns and pounding his fist vehemently on the bar, Patty got the crowd’s attention, thundering in his Irish brogue,  “Dis has gone too far, ya jaloons! We need a referee for the lot o’ ya eejits; somebody’s gotta make da final decision as to dis bleedin’ argument, and dat somebody is me!

And with that, he gave us all a round of drinks on the house.  After the cheering had died down, Patty said, “I’ll settle the question of Columbus’ nationality, I will.  He was a PortuGreaser.  And while we’re on da topic, everyone knows it was dat Irishman in dat wee little boat dat discovered America.  God bless America and God bless dat wee little nip that saw ‘im across da ragin’ sea!”

Now, I would like to toast Christopher Columbus, no matter what he was or where he is.  Join me, please, in raising your glasses to that geographically clueless SOB, Christoforo Columbus.

In light of the current climate of our nation — a total lack of humor with respect to ethnicity — I apologize to any who may have been offended by this article. It wasn’t my intent to offend, but rather, to make you laugh.  Besides.  We all know that Columbus was Italian!  🙂

Related Articles:

The Curious Case of Christopher Columbus: A Study in Historical Revisionism

Christopher Columbus On Trial

Ascending the Heights

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Historically, mankind has conceived of God or gods in a heavenly realm above the earth.  For this reason, in order to better communicate with God or ancient deities, men have ascended to high places.  As early as the fourth millennium B.C., the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians of ancient Mesopotamia built temple towers called ziggurats. 

Raised temple areas were also part of Mayan, as well as Jewish and Christian cultures.  Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.  In the Gospels, Jesus is often portrayed as going up a mountain to pray.  Most churches have some form of steeple that towers above the rest of the structure.

Our fascination with ascending hills or mountains is not limited to communication with God, it is a metaphor for our attempts to advance, overcome obstacles, and improve ourselves.  In our lives, a hill or mountain can be a problem, a grievance, an illness, a fear, or a host of other things.

Oftentimes, we cannot seem to “climb this mountain” ourselves.  We need the help of another or others to provoke a realization, change our attitudes, guide our paths, cultivate our skills, or bolster our confidence.  And, absent such help, we may be doomed to failure.

Would Columbus have discovered the New World without the funding of the Spanish royal family?  Without the financial assistance of the great Italian statesman Lorenzo de’ Medici during the early career of Michelangelo, would the world have been robbed of the magnificence of his painting of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling?

Interestingly enough, the people who help often gain as much as the individual assisted.  For that reason, it is said that “When you help someone up a hill, you get that much closer to the top yourself.”

Christopher Columbus On Trial!

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Not long ago in England, history texts for British school children wiped clean, from all maps of Ireland, the nine counties constituting The Troubles to Brits and Irish alike.  As late as 2002, Japan’s history books made absolutely no mention of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Today — November 24, 2010 — in Brooklyn, New York, history may very well be rewritten once again.  If it is, its verdict may far eclipse the mock court in which the case of which I speak is to be tried.

Today, Christopher Columbus becomes the defendant in a mock trial conducted by the students of the Urban Assembly School for Justice and Law.  Albeit that the trial is hypothetical and has, of this writing, yet to take place, the verdict already seems to be in.  According to the remarks of most of the eleventh graders involved in and interviewed for this trial (http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_localnyc/legal-eaglets-at-high-school-to-put-christopher-columbus-on-trial?bouchon=501,ny), that verdict seems to be “guilty.” 

Justine Rivera, the 16-year-old assuming the part of the prosecutor, stated, “Christopher Columbus isn’t necessarily who you think he is.  He discovered America for the Europeans, but there were a lot of negative consequences for the Aztecs and Incas who were already living there.”

Consistent with U.S. law, to bring a defendant to justice, the prosecution must prove “means, motive, and opportunity.”  I’ll bet dollars to donuts that when Columbus hit up the King and Queen of Spain for the resources to mount his exploration of the New World, he wasn’t thinking, “Gee, I hope to run across some Native Americans and screw them good for centuries to come.”  So, Columbus had the means, and he had the opportunity.  But where was his motive for harming the indigenous peoples?

Did Christopher wish to make some decent cash for himself and his crew, and perhaps fund future explorations, based upon his discoveries?  The probability is high that yes, he did.

But it was far more than greed, and nothing akin to race hatred … for races he had yet to encounter! … entreating a noble family to bankroll what the world-at-large had deemed a lunatic’s errand.  Few people in the 15th century believed that the Earth was round.  For Columbus to strike out for the New World, he was deeply courageous, highly proactive, and entirely off course!  He was an explorer: one who, in error, discovered not The Indies, but what was destined to become the nation known as the United States of America.

If every explorer, every researcher, every innovative thinker, writer, or artist, every intrepid soul who has ever stepped into the great unknown thought twice about doing so, simply because his or her actions might — many centuries down the road — be termed politically incorrect, we, as a nation, would have never:

  • Freed ourselves of British rule and “taxation without representation”

  • Broken the yolk of slavery in the Deep South

  • Become industrialized

  • Established a justice system to which the rest of the world aspires

  • Founded social programs to protect our citizenry

  • Allowed The Beatles to step foot on our soil

  • Been the first to put men on the moon

  • Discovered the genetic link to so many cancers

  • Created the Internet (didn’t Al Gore do that?)

  • Devised the technology that can transplant nerves in the human body, create babies outside the human body, and achieve so many other medical miracles

This is but a brief list of the positives that we have engendered as a nation … all because an Italian explorer, funded by Spanish nobility, opened the door for exploration and expansion on America’s shores.

No one is negating the injustices and horrors suffered by America’s indigenous peoples at the hands of progress.  No one — and most certainly, not this writer.  But down through the ages, history has proven that for a new order to occur, the old must die, or at least, change to adapt to the new.  It’s a sad fact, but it is a fact.

Inching a little closer to home now, I would ask the teenagers conducting this mock trial the following questions.  Had Columbus, in his own day, been reigned in because of dominoes toppling into a far-reaching future, would the following things ever have taken place?

  • Would your own great-grandparents, your parents, or even you have been allowed to migrate here from other nations?  Would you or your family have become citizens of this land whose benefits and resources still, in this rotten economy, cause people to infiltrate our borders and cross dangerous seas in small craft?

  • Would you be receiving the quality education that you now enjoy in another nation — an education that will enable you, today, to enter an actual Supreme Court in order to conduct your mock trial?

  • If not, would you even be allowed the freedom of speech — including blogging — without fear of imprisonment, torture, or death?

  • Would you be wearing jeans and Ts today with $100-a-pop sneakers? Or would you be cowering beneath a burka?

  • Would you have music videos, Blackberries, cell phones with texting, photography, GPS, and other neat options?  Would you have clean water to drink, enough food to toss out the scraps while people in other lands go hungry?  Would you even have a roof over your head, had you been born and raised in another land?

One final word, kids, before you hang Christopher Columbus for all time today, in the city of my birth.

Never stop exploring. Never stop questioning, particularly authority, and particularly in this day and age.  Never stop reaching to be the best that you can be.  And when you do, never forget this well-considered piece of advice: always temper your exuberance with logic, compassion, and a genuine respect for our Constitution.  Not merely its words, but the principles upon which those words are based.

Logic, compassion, and respect will get you a lot farther in this world than sheer exuberance and the wish to appear as trendy (i.e., politically correct) as possible.  Logic, compassion, and respect might just get you through this cruel, increasingly and oppressively politically correct world.  They might just make it a better place for the children that you one day will bring into it.

Related Post:

The Curious Case of Christopher Columbus: A Study in Historical Revisionism

The Curious Case of Christopher Columbus: A Study in Historical Revisionism

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Christopher Columbus

Attorneys can be disbarred.  Saints can be de-canonized (just ask St. Christopher, the guy who used to protect us as we took our lives into our hands on the Jersey highways).  So what do you call it when the man credited with discovering America is no longer honored, as he was in the recent past, with his own day and parades replete with marching bands?  I’m really not sure what to call it, other than a miscarriage of justice for the great Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus.


Far more progressive and controversial than his contemporaries, Columbus postulated that the world was not flat but round.  Columbus’ theory put forth that a spherical planet would enable a faster trade route to the East, wherein lay all manner of goods and beaucoup bucks, as we say today, for those who traded those goods.  With visions of riches dancing in his head, Columbus made his sales pitch to the King of Spain, who was both tolerant and solvent.  It was a good sales pitch, for it earned the explorer three fine ships and a crew by which he had planned to haul back the goods, create new wealth for himself and the Spanish monarch, and offer the people of Europe the luxuries of the Orient.


Instead of discovering a new route to the East, Columbus ran ashore of the New World (America).  Planting the flag of Spain on North American soil, he dubbed and befriended the native “Indians”, for indeed, he’d assumed initially that he’d hit India.   Eventually, he found his way to the Caribbean, where he located the spices and other interesting commodities for which he’d been hoping.


In his honor, October 12th was dedicated as Columbus Day: a day to remember the man who’d discovered this continent.   Not so very long ago, schools closed in Columbus’ honor.  Floats moved in stately fashion down the streets of our cities as well as small towns, such as the one in which I was raised.  Brass instruments flashed in the sun, children waved the Stars and Stripes, and entire communities marched in honor.  Everyone celebrated Columbus Day.


Inevitably, the Politically Correct came slinking out of their dark, foreboding crevasses to kill Columbus Day, just as they have been trying to do, systematically, with Christmas and Halloween.   Heated discussions arose as to whether or not Nordic explorers or even St. Brendan of Ireland discovered America before Christopher.  And then, of course, came the allegations that Columbus, through guilt by very tenuous association and many generations removed, was responsible for the near-obliteration of the “Indians” (Native Americans).


Ergo, no more annual Columbus Day parades, except for those few surviving in proud Italian-American communities, such as Bensonhurst, in Brooklyn, New York.


At the time when The Troubles were rampant in Northern Ireland, Great Britain published history books that showed maps of Ireland removed of the 9 offensive Northern counties.  England effectively rewrote history, as it was a bit uncomfortable.  Across the globe, Japanese history books made no mention of the events of Pearl Harbor.  When Japanese tourists visit Hawaii for the first time, they are shocked and horrified to learn of this portion of their history that has been buried.


Now that we’ve removed the pomp and circumstance, along with the pride we once felt surrounding Columbus Day, is America now guilty of rewriting history to make things comfortable for the so-called Politically Correct?

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