Not My Holiday

Christopher_Columbus6Even as a schoolkid, I was never a big fan of Christopher Columbus.

When my third grade teacher presented cartoon pictures of this helmeted saint conquering the New World while little brown natives rejoiced on the shore, I thought to myself “But how could he have ‘discovered’ a place where people were already living?”

Whether it’s just guilt or Jewish genetic social consciousness, I’ve always had this inherent preference for the underdog, especially indigenous peoples whose land is invaded by syphilis-riddled sailors. Though I did not yet have the vocabulary to tell Mrs. Tipton why I colored Columbus’ face green on the ditto she passed out while the other kids chanted about the Nina, the Pinta and that Santa Maria, I saw right through the propaganda: Rich, white dude who’s the pet favorite of the queen gets to sail around the world like a trustafarian Trump and be entitled to whatever he finds. (In junior high I tried to ramp up enthusiasm for a formal protest to repeal Columbus Day as a national holiday, but trying to convince 7th-graders that a day off school wasn’t a good thing proved to be difficult, and also branded me as a social idiot.)

So, yeah, I’ve always thought CC was a bit of a douche. And this was way before I learned that he set sail on August 3, 1492, the very day after Queen Bitch Isabella and her bloodthirsty dick of a king, Ferdinand, ordered that all the Jews be expelled from Spain. The Catholic Church conducted its horrific Inquisition during this time, torturing and stealing from anyone suspected of lighting candles on Friday nights. (My mother wrote an incredibly interesting book of fiction, The Blind Eye, based on this time, which you can order here — it’s fascinating!)

In the five-and-half years I’ve been blogging about Jewishy thangs, much has been written about the reclamation of Judaic roots by many Latinos who descended from Spanish and Portuguese Jews who hid their religion by pretending to accept Catholicism (known as “conversos”). Once in a while I’ll come across a theory that Columbus himself was actually Jewish — that he was in fact a converso who finagled a very expensive expedition as an escape. I haven’t found anything truly definitive, but it seems that although he was clearly a loud and proud Christian, his family tree had some Hebraic branches. In any case, his interpreter and two of his financiers (who happened to be along for the ride) were conversos, and he made use of Jewish historian Abraham Zacuto’s astronomical tables and charts on the voyage.

But even if some archaeologist finds Columbus’ bar mitzvah certificate this afternoon, does it matter? It doesn’t change the imperialist invasion of indigenous cultures that set the stage for our own country’s decimation of its native peoples, it doesn’t assauge the anti-Semitism in the world. Would history be rewritten to reflect it other than as an anecdotal footnote? Doubtful.

Look at all the hullabaloo out last week claiming that Iranian democratically-elected president Israeli sponge expert Mamoud Ahmadinejad has Jewish leaves on his family tree: Even if it were proven the stamps in his passport reveal that his grandparents were tzitzi makers, the Arab world would never accept it.

Like Ahmadinejad’s, Columbus’ Jewish roots are irrelevant — they’re both douchebags with a penchant for genocide. The fact that one has an official holiday in the United States is asinine — and hell yeah, I’d stand up in front of Mrs. Tipton’s class and say it if I could.

4 thoughts on “Not My Holiday

  1. we had guests here at our inn last week, and their first comment was noticing the mezzuzah on the door… He a member of the tribe.. she converted and was talking about this very thing that CC was actually Jewish…


  2. Jessica dear, I won’t attribute this to your old age, but the sailors on the three ships were not syphilis riddled. Instead, many medical historians believe it was the returning sailors who introduced syphilis to Europe. The Europeans did oblige by bringing small pox, mumps, measles and other such bacteria. All exploration, even to this day, involves the exchange of toxins. How about a little bird flu getting off of a plane in Toronto a few years back. Also, the HIV virus has been alleged to have been widely spread in North America by one flight attendant, labelled by the CDC as Patient Zero. Other studies believe HIV came from Africa to North America via Haiti.
    To hold people of another era to the same standards we apply today is a waste of time. Jewish scholars were still arguing the laws pertaining to slave ownership by Jews in the century after Columbus sailed.
    Did absolute rulers do absolutely horrible things back then? Yep. Is it still happening today? Yep. But to hate Cristobal Colon (to get all ethnic on ya) for behaving like everybody (and I mean everybody) did back then is to lose historical perspective. Did he fight with some Indians? Yes. Did he ally and treat with others? Yes. What happened when Columbus sailed back? He left behind a settlement known as La Navidad. What happened to the settlers in La Navidad? They were all massacred by some Taino Indians even as they allied with other Tainos. Columbus didn’t sail up and wreck Eden. The Tainos, Caribs and Canibs here were already killing each other and their environment. I’ll let you guess what the Canibs did with their enemies. Hint, the word comes from the tribe’s name.
    I have a great book called 1491. It is a history of what was happening in North and South America before Columbus. By the by, Columbus never made it to mainland North America. I will bring it Sunday if you are interested.
    Love you.

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