Starting with the dawn, there will be lots of critics of Christopher Columbus buzzing about. Herewith a few thoughts:
1). To those who deprecate his achievement, invite them to get back to you after they’ve set sail with three ships provisioned as Columbus’ were, with the same means of navigation and communication, in uncharted seas, and manage to make landfall anywhere.
2). To those who say what Columbus brought was wholly or predominantly evil, invite them to get back to you after they’ve given up all the technology that exists in the New World only because of the contacts beginning with Columbus. Possible starting points: electricity, antibiotics, and the wheel.
3). To those who say Columbus didn’t “discover” anything because people were already living here, ask them to estimate when the Old World would have become aware that the New World was inhabited if the contact could only come from the New World. Require them to point to concrete evidence of, say, navigation beyond the sight of land by inhabitants of the New World before 1492 and extrapolation therefrom to back up their estimate.
This is not to say that Columbus was perfect or always behaved morally. He may even have done some things that we consider gravely evil. Many of those we justly honor have, at times, acted in ways that are difficult to defend.
But they are perfectly reasonable rejoinders to the growing number who deny that Columbus achieved anything or who assert that all that Columbus set in motion was evil. Columbus was indeed a great man, and there are many reasons to be grateful that in 1492 he sailed the ocean blue.
Happy Columbus Day!