I remember starting this blog like three years ago. And I thought that I had all of these funny and sarcastic things to write and tell the world. And as it really turns out, I only had like one funny concept. Which was the conquistador history month one. And that was a pretty funny post. I'm really proud of that one. The rest of the stuff I've written on here is largely sub-par and I will readily admit that.
And now I have two years of experience living out in a big city. I've seen a lot of things, been through a lot, and I think almost most importantly, I've had the chance to develop a lot of my own ideas and concepts about the world. Which is an important thing for everyone to do at some point in their life. Your parent's ideas about how things work will only get you so far.
I find that I really enjoy writing. I don't know that I necessarily have important things to say, or even regularly coherent things to say. But I have a number of thoughts about the world that I'd still like to convey to whoever wants to take time to read them. And whether anybody reads this or not, I find writing therapeutic, so I'll probably write anyways.
I felt like today would be an appropriate day to return to posting here because it is a day to celebrate one of the most well-recognized conquistadors of all time: Christopher Columbus.
Just look at the smug grin on that mofo.
Well so, if you went to a public school in the United States, at some point you were probably taught all about how Columbus sailed the ocean blue in the year 1492. Great rhyme, it's the only way I remember the year that happened anyways. The story is told that Columbus was the only person in the world that believed the Earth was not flat and that he wouldn't fall off the edge if he sailed too far. I love that part of the story. It makes Columbus sound like this hero who was defying the great scientific and geologic minds of the day by destroying "established knowledge" to sail directly to India. It makes him sound so romantic and heroic.
The truth is, pretty much everyone and their dog knew that Earth wasn't flat. Because the concept of a flat Earth was thrown out when people realized that was ridiculous. Don't think that people didn't still mock and berate Columbus though. They sure did. But not because he thought the world was round, simply because they all knew that the world was waaay bigger than Columbus thought it was. And there was no way he was going to just sail on over to India and back in a few months. They didn't necessarily know that there was land in between them and India (although Leif Erikson already had that filth on lock up north), but they did know that there was probably a gigantic ocean in the way where he would probably die with all of his crew from undernourishment or dehydration.
Luckily, the Spaniards were a bunch of greedy bastards, so they called up this lunatic Italian and gave him three ships and told him to make it happen. Columbus sails on his ships, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Tupac (Obligatory Step Brothers reference - warning, language) and makes his way to what he thinks is India. He sails for a few months and one early morning, the guy on watch spots land out in the distance. He wakes everybody up and they're all pumped to have found "India." There was apparently a reward from the king of Spain that was supposed to go to whoever spotted the land first. It should have gone to that guy, but Columbus claimed that he already spotted the same land the day before from his cabin. He then claimed the prize for himself. What a homie.
They make port and find the Arawak people, who swim out to the boat to greet these strange visitors. Of course, nobody knew they were called the Arawak people. Columbus and all of his men were convinced they had landed in India. They were actually in Cuba. But since they thought they were in India, they figured they would go with the politically correct term and call all of these people Indian. And Columbus, businessman that he is, decides that these people would make perfect slaves. They were all very willing to do what they were told and gave up pretty much anything you wanted.
Columbus goes on to take like 500 of them back to Spain with him as slaves and then is sent back on another trip to "India" to bring more slaves back. They start hitting up other islands nearby, crippling the native populations with disease and murder and slavery. Columbus was after gold too and was sure that there would just be fields of gold lying around. So he would get groups of indians together and tell them they had to go find so much gold, otherwise he would cut off their hands. Unfortunately, neither Cuba, nor the Dominican Republic and Haiti, nor Puerto Rico have any fields of gold lying around. They had traces of gold dust at best. This resulted in lots of indians trying to run away and dying or not finding the gold and getting their hands chopped off and later dying.
Columbus did a lot of things. Most of them were pretty terrible. He made four trips to the Americas. And on every trip, he was still convinced that he was in India. People back in Europe had recognized and reported that this was a new continent. But Columbus wouldn't have their filth tarnishing his reputation. So he stuck with what he firmly believed. That all the scientists and geologists and cartographers were wrong and that he had found a direct path to India.
So there are two questions at play now. First, what's up with celebrating such a terrible person once a year? Second, why are you telling me any of this?
Excellent questions. We'll talk about the first question first. Presumably, we celebrate Columbus Day because he pretty much was the guy who got colonies started in the Americas. Granted, he really only discovered islands to the south of what is now the United States of America and he never admitted to not finding India. But he opened the way for the colonization of the United States. And I guess that's something.
Celebrate is a strong word to use with Columbus Day. Does anybody really throw Columbus Day parties? It's not a bad idea. That's got some potential to it. I guess you'd have some Italian food and some Spanish food and maybe some berries and corn and stuff, but you'd have to refer to all of it as Indian food. If we're being honest, the only thing I really see that happens on Columbus Day is that the post office is closed for no apparent reason. Aside from that, nothing else changes.
The point is, we honor this man because he opened the path for colonizing the Americas. And because of that, we turn a blind eye to all of the heinous acts he committed. Which were pretty numerous. But we have to teach the kids about something and we can't teach them about pillage, plunder, rape, and slavery. So instead we talk about how Columbus is this great hero and he became friends with Squanto or whatever and they all ate corn and discussed the stock market together over turkey dinner and Bud Light after watching the game together. I may be mixing up my stories here. But you get the point.
This ties in with question number two about why I'm telling you this. Because I want to talk about ignorance and turning a blind eye to things. We've all heard the phrase "ignorance is bliss" before. And it's a great phrase because it's absolutely true. It seems the less you know about things, the easier it is to cope with life and existence in general. Especially when those things are negative. This doesn't mean that ignorance is the best policy, simply that sometimes it is the easiest way to deal with things.
It is much easier to look at Columbus as a national hero who discovered America than to try to pick apart his actions and decide whether he was really honorable and worth closing the post office for him or not.
It is much easier to not think about turmoil and pain and death in other countries. I don't think we fully comprehend the scope of what people suffer in some areas of the world. Not that we necessarily need to understand that. But it's easier for us not to think about it.
It is easier to not think about the Ebola outbreak in Africa and the possibility of it spreading to other countries. Yes, I understand all of the implications of first world medicine and better living conditions that would make it difficult to spread to developed countries. But it's still a threat. And it's a threat that I honestly prefer not to think about. It's easier for me that way. That's kind of how the human mind works.
And all of this begs a third question. Is this a bad thing?
To some extent, no. There are many things that we really don't need to think about and it doesn't matter if we worry about them or not, it will have no effect on us. But at the same time, it's like an ostrich sticking his head in the ground when he's afraid. Or a child who closes his eyes and assumes that he's now invisible to everyone else. It just doesn't work. The things we can't see or think about can definitely still hurt us. I don't often think about brain aneurysms, but those could hit anyone at pretty much any time.
And I guess what I want to say is that we need to be more critical about the things we choose to focus on or not. If something is a legitimate concern, then we definitely shouldn't play the ignorance game. But when things are only going to bring us worry and concern, then we're safe to pull the hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil card. We just need to be sure that those things are actually safe to ignore.
I often struggle with this and I worry about things unnecessarily. It's something I'm working on changing. I think we could probably all work on it to some extent. As long as we are choosing the correct things to focus on and ignoring the things that don't deserve or need our attention.
In the meantime, I'm going to buy a pizza and drink copious amounts of soda to celebrate Columbus Day. Good luck out there, you guys.