Andrea U. Florida

Chris Columbus and why first graders shouldn't be taught to glorify him

A letter to the future president regarding the celebration of Columbus day, and its negative effects on our definitions of "hero" and "monster", our kids, and our society.

Dear Future President:

My name is Andrea Unzaga and I am a resident of Miami, Florida. As your constituent, I am writing this letter to urge you and your appropriate agencies to promote the abnegation of the celebration of Columbus Day within the country and cease the vague teachings glorification of Christopher Columbus in public elementary schools. This country was built on individual freedoms and if anyone feels as strongly as I do about the distress caused by this holiday they should be in no way stopped from celebrating it but they should be aware of what it is they are commemorating.

The obvious reason not to celebrate Columbus Day is that he did not discover America any more than the average tourist has, but there is a more serious problem.

Beyond the murder of Native Americans that Christopher Columbus and his men personally engaged in, Columbus triggered one of the longest and most deadly genocides in history. While it is true that many of the deaths were caused by disease rather than murder, there was always a reckless disregard for the lives of the Native people, and at times, a conscious public policy, particularly in the 1800s, to eradicate the Native American population.

According to seminars taught at Columbia on contemporary issues facing Native American communities, it has been concluded that the actions against Native Americans, particularly after the United States became a country, satisfy all of the criteria for genocide under the United Nations Convention on Genocide, including “killing members of the group” and “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” Despite this, even today, children in this country are taught approvingly about Manifest Destiny, i.e., that a Christian God gave the brave pioneers the right to occupy the lands from sea to shining sea and thus the right to displace those living there.

While American school children may not understand that what really occurred was a conscious extermination policy, the toxic ripple Columbus caused should not be celebrated when it’s comparable to the acts of of other historical villains not commemorated annually. Documents show that Adolph Hitler used the efforts to exterminate Native Americans and replace them with settler farmers as a model for his Lebensraum campaign to eliminate the inhabitants of Eastern Europe and replace them with German farmers. After observing that “Nordics” had colonized the West after they had “shot down the millions of redskins to a few hundred thousand,” he predicted that “here in the East a similar process will repeat itself”. Europe does not celebrate the Third Reich just as we shouldn’t celebrate Columbus Day.

It is worth setting aside Oct. 10, but for a different purpose. Data from Native American country shows that while there are many successful Native Americans the effects of the trauma flowing from the events triggered by Columbus continue to plague Native American communities, particularly Native American youth. Studies in the field of epigenetics have demonstrated that the effects of traumatic events can pass physiologically from one generation to the next, so that the descendants suffer traumatization similar to that suffered by the actual victims of the trauma. Native Americans have the highest rate of high school drop-outs, approaching 50 percent, and the lowest rate of students attending college of any ethnic group in the country, the highest youth suicide rate, and many other indices of trauma.

Rather than celebrating Columbus, the country should spend the day exploring what it can do to help the Native American community remedy the extraordinary harm Columbus and his progeny did to the original inhabitants of this country. Some see nothing wrong with Columbus Day and would rather maintain it is not up to them to decide what is disrespectful and what isn’t; it is only up to the party oppressed.

I strongly urge you to consider bringing state-wide awareness to those who celebrate Columbus Day. By not celebrating Columbus Day, we demonstrate respect for the valid perspectives of the indigenous Americans whose people, lands, and cultures were victimized by “explorers” such as Columbus. Doing so also sends the message that America will not tolerate those who believe in and act on a supposedly God-ordained right to conquer and exterminate others.

Though this might end up in a large pile somewhere because it looks too long and like a waste of time, I thank whoever read this. Whether it be the president himself, a lowly intern, or the janitor who picked it up from the trash.

A very opinionated 17-year-old voter and a proud Hispanic American,

Andrea Unzaga-Burgos

Mourning Senior High School

Hoover Period #1

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