The Wasatch Behind: Spud interviews Columbus
Spud: "Good morning Mr. Columbus. I appreciate you spending some time with me for this interview. I know you've been very busy with parades, speeches and special events this past weekend."
Columbus: "I'm happy to be here."
Spud: "So tell us, who is Christopher Columbus?"
Columbus: "Well Ã¯Â¿Â½ they give me credit for discovering America in 1492."
Columbus: "There is some question about who really "discovered" America. The millions of indigenous peoples living here in 1492 figured the place had already been discovered. I just get credit for finding it and then telling the rest of the world where it was."
Spud: "Other people have claimed they got here first?"
Columbus: "Yes. The Vikings, Chinese, Russians, Irishmen, Basques, Portuguese, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Micronesians and Mormons all have stories that their ancestors got here first."
Spud: "But you're the guy who found it and got it in the newspapers?"
Columbus: "That's right."
Spud: "So why don't we call this place Columbia, after you, instead of America? Where did the name America come from?"
Columbus: "An Italian guy named Amerigo Vespucci mapped the Atlantic coast of South America between 1499 and 1502. People started calling the place America in his honor. He sort of stole my thunder."
Spud: "But you're still a hero?"
Columbus: "I was a hero for 500 years. But now I'm being turned into a villain. Some politically correct people are saying that I'm the guy who screwed up America and we shouldn't celebrate my holiday anymore."
Spud: "How did you screw up America?"
Columbus: "The tree huggers and some native American groups are saying that America was a Garden of Eden in 1492. They say that I messed it up by bringing "white guy" culture, values, technology, religion, and diseases to the new world."
Spud: "Holy cow. Did you really find a Garden of Eden here in the new world?"
Columbus: "Well Ã¯Â¿Â½ the country was pretty, and the cannibal tribes of the Caribbean were good to us. But then, they were intimidated by our superior weapons and technology. Had we washed ashore in life rafts, our reception might have been very different. The natives ran around naked and they didn't have any sport utility vehicles or roads in the wilderness. Some people would call that paradise, I suppose."
Spud: "But we are told that Native Americans were perfect environmentalists and they all got along together. There was no strife and contention, everything was "sacred," and dancing with wolves was a popular pastime."
Columbus: "I didn't see any of that. The natives I knew fought with their neighbors and jumped whole herds of buffalo over cliffs so they could eat a few. There were cannibals, slaves, priests and kings who oppressed, sorcerers, human sacrifice, and a constant state of warfare between tribes. In short, the people of the new world were very much like the people of the old world, only more brutal in many ways. The big difference was that they were still living in a stone age society."
Spud: "So you don't feel guilty about opening the door for the European conquest of the new world?"
Columbus: "Not at all. Had America been a real Garden of Eden, the peaceful people living here should have been able to develop a civilization with technology, science, and a worldview far beyond what we Europeans had in 1492. And don't ever forget Ã¯Â¿Â½ that ocean can be crossed in both directions. Wouldn't it have been something if Montezuma had landed in Portugal with a fleet of warships and conquered Europe?"
Spud: "Thank you for all you did for us, Columbus. Americans owe you a great deal. You gave us a place to go to escape the poverty, tyranny, religious persecution, political exploitation, and the endless wars of Europe and the Mediterranean during the age of discovery and the early days of the industrial revolution. You found a place where the ambitions and dreams of all mankind could flourish in relative freedom and security in a land of plenty. You opened the door to the greatest experiment in democracy and freedom ever experienced by the human creature. Your vision, courage, faith and conviction demonstrate qualities that we should all strive to perfect. You will always be one of my heroes. Thank you for screwing up America the way it was back in 1492. The new America is much better."