I was going to title this post, ‘In Defense of Christopher Columbus’ but the truth is, the man doesn’t need any defending. But for those who might insist Columbus does need defending, allow me to direct you to Father John A Hardon.
For myself, Christopher Columbus has the distinction of being the first genuine hero of my childhood. I say genuine because the others were all fictional characters. I can’t remember the exact grade, but it was early in elementary school where I heard the story of Columbus’ crew begging and then demanding that he abandon his search for the new world and turn back to the old. According to my teacher, Columbus, threatened with mutiny, bought himself one more day of westward sailing by offering the first man to spot land his admiral’s coat.
Apparently the garment would have fetched a tidy sum for the sailor lucky enough to win it, a sum tidy enough that they were all willing to risk sailing off the end Earth for one more day. As it happened, someone did spot land the next day and the rest is glorious history.
The anecdote struck my childhood imagination in just the right spot. I imagined the dramatic confrontation between a man with a vision and a superstitious mob as the penultimate scene in a stage play about the great explorer.
Why a stage play?
Well, the previous year I had my one and only acting experience and was for a long time thereafter intrigued with the idea of writing plays. For the record, I played one of two cops who hauled Rosa Parks off the bus in a play produced for black history week. My one line: “Sorry lady, but you can’t sit here.”
My partner got to slap the imaginary cuffs on her and say, “I’m afraid that you are under arrest, ma’am.”
Funny, the things one remembers.
At any rate the Columbus play never got written. I didn’t have anything approximating the chops for such a project and well, for one other reason that will have to be the subject of another post someday.
Yet Christopher Columbus remained a hero even through the subsequent years when teacher after teacher and then pundit after pundit tried to convince me that Columbus was a genocidal monster. Since becoming Catholic, my admiration for the man has only doubled. While not yet a saint, Cristoforo Columbo can certainly be counted as a Hero of the Faith!
The only thing I have to say to SJW historical revisionists who take issue with that would be, “If I could, I’d give Hernando Cortes his own holiday too! A global holiday at that, because destroying the Aztec empire was the biggest gift to mankind since the Romans salted Carthage!”
And if that don’t make their heads explode, I’d share with them my fondness for Franco and Pinochet.
Behind him lay the gray Azores,
Behind, the Gates of Hercules;
Before him not the ghost of shores;
Before him only shoreless seas.
The good mate said: “Now must we pray,
For lo! the very stars are gone.
Brave Adm’r’l, speak: what shall I say?”
“Why say: ‘Sail on! sail on! and on!’”
“My men grow mutinous day by day;
My men grow ghastly wan and weak.”
The stout mate thought of home; a spray
Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.
“What shall I say, brave Adm’r’l, say
If we sight naught but seas at dawn?”
“Why, you shall say at break of day:
‘Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!’”
They sailed and sailed, as winds might blow,
Until at last the blanched mate said:
“Why, now not even God would know
Should I and all my men fall dead.
These very winds forget their way;
For God from these dread seas is gone.
Now speak, brave Adm’r’l; speak and say—”
He said: “Sail on! sail on! and on!”
They sailed: they sailed. Then spake the mate:
“This mad sea shows his teeth tonight;
He curls his lip, he lies in wait,
With lifted teeth, as if to bite!
Brave Adm’r’l, say but one good word:
What shall we do when hope is gone?”
The words leapt like a leaping sword:
“Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!”
Then, pale and worn, he kept his deck,
And peered through darkness. Ah, that night
Of all dark nights! And then a speck—
A light! a light! a light! a light!
It grew; a starlit flag unfurled!
It grew to be Time’s burst of dawn.
He gained a world; he gave that world
Its grandest lesson: “On! sail on!
The poem come by way of the Serpent’s Den! Go visit, and make yourself comfortable.
And lastly, I will share this short and unabashed defense of Columbus by the inimitable Michael Knowles.