Tag Archive | "Urban Assembly School for Justice and Law"

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

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