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Abigail Tull
Pat Holder
Writing Response
18 October 2014

Celebrating a Monster
Who doesnt love a three-day weekend? Most people would love an extra day off. But
what if that day off was spent honoring a murderer? That is, in theory, the entire basis of
Columbus Day; to celebrate the man who discovered America, even though Columbus was not
even the first to set foot there. Icelandic legends called sagas recounted Erikssons exploits in
the New World (America) around A.D. 1000; almost 500 years before Columbus was even born
(Klein). But on top of Christopher Columbus first discovery of the Americas, he was also
extremely greedy and cruel to the Native Americans. Columbus, the Indians, and Human
Progress by Howard Zinn illustrates the true motives and actions carried out by Columbus, and it
is horrifying. Columbus Day promotes a wrongfully positive image of Christopher Columbus,
and therefore should no longer be a holiday.
When Columbus first arrived in the Americas, he was immediately greeted by the native
people called the Arawaks. He wrote that, ...They willingly traded everything they owned
They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, and they took it by
the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance (Zinn 3). This insinuates that the Arawaks were
not only kind enough to trade their belongings, but that they were also a peaceful society; one
that knew not of weapons. However, while the Indians tried their best to make Columbus and his
men feel welcome, Columbus first thought was, ...They would make fine servants With fifty
men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want (Zinn 3). Columbus was

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completely unashamed of his plans to manipulate the Arawaks into doing his bidding, including
searching for what he was originally sent to America to find; gold. He was promised many things
as a reward, ...10 percent of the profits, governorship over new-found lands, and the fame that
would go with a new title: Admiral of the Ocean Sea (Zinn 4). And, being greedy as Columbus
was, he wanted all of his prizes. However, he did not want to work for it; Columbus and his men,
...ordered all persons fourteen or older to collect a certain quantity of gold every three months.
When they brought it, they were given copper tokens to hang around their necks. Indians found
without a copper token had their hands cut off and bled to death (Zinn 6). Columbus not only
employed the Arawaks to do his work, but he also tortured, mutilated, and ultimately killed them
if they did not follow through with their orders; hardly the act of a man worth honoring with his
own holiday.
Think about the stereotypically good or honorable qualities that one can possess. A
contributor to the website, A Celebration Of Women states that, I consider an honorable man
someone who is kind, has both dignity and grace, makes an honest living, is compassionate,
responsible for his own actions, trustworthy and keeps his promises (A Celebration of Women).
Compare this with the actions of Christopher Columbus and his men. The act of forcing Arawaks
to do his gold-hunting most certainly puts Columbus out of the running for making an honest
living. In addition, his treatment of the Indians in that same situation prove that he and his men
were not particularly kind, nor compassionate, as ...two of these so-called Christians met two
Indian boys one day, each carrying a parrot; they took the parrots and for fun beheaded the boys
(Zinn 8). As for being trustworthy and keeping promises, at one point Columbus, ...had to make
good on his promise to fill the ships with gold, but as it turned out, The only gold around was

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bits of dust garnered from the streams (Zinn 6). Again, another quality in which Columbus has
fallen short.
There are many other holidays created to celebrate people, including Martin Luther King
Jr. Day. King was a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s who helped
pave the way for equality between races. He led marches, delivered inspiring speeches, and even
ended up receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. It could be said that he , ...became not only the
symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure (Nobel Prize). None of that can be
said about Christopher Columbus; Howard Zinn proves that he was driven by money and power,
and had no problem with shedding Arawak blood to get what he wanted. In fact, ...there were
60,000 people living on this island [in 1508], including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508,
over three million people had perished from war, slavery, and the mines (Zinn 8). While this
death toll, caused by Columbus, can not be related to a man like Martin Luther King, Jr., it can
be related to another historical figure; Joseph Stalin. The total figure for the entire Stalinist
period is likely between two million and three million (Snyder). There would never be a holiday
honoring Stalin, as he is seen as a murderous monster. In comparison, however, Christopher
Columbus actions resulted in the same amount of deaths as those of Stalin. Is that really the type
of man worth celebrating? One who shares a death toll statistic with a man who is considered a
There is nothing wrong with enjoying a holiday, however, there is something wrong with
a holiday honoring a murderer. Some schools and workplaces have already started to disregard
Columbus Day, but not enough people are educated on what exactly Christopher Columbus
accomplished. Not only was he not the first man to set foot in the Americas, but once he got
there, he took the native Arawaks as slaves to do his bidding and was not afraid to kill them

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without a second thought. The public should take the time to educate themselves on the actions
of the people honored by holidays; otherwise, they may end up celebrating a monster.

Works Cited
"HONOR, What Does It Mean to Be Honorable?" A Celebration of Women. N.p., 17 Oct. 2012.
Web. 18 Oct. 2014.
Klein, Christopher. "The Viking Explorer Who Beat Columbus to America." A&E
Television Networks, 08 Oct. 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.
"Martin Luther King Jr." N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.
Snyder, Timothy. "Hitler vs. Stalin: Who Was Worse? by Timothy Snyder." Home. N.p., 27 Jan.
2011. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.
Zinn, Howard. "Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress." A People's History of the United
States. N.p.: Harper & Row; HarperCollins, 1980. 3-16. Print.