It is amazing how the various waves of political correctness that currently exist in the United States can trash the reputations of people even after centuries have passed. Though it is hard to argue with some of the atrocities that have been attributed to Christopher Columbus, it is also difficult to support any attempts to eliminate the Columbus Day holiday. Opponents of the holiday have existed in various forms and date back more than 100 years.
Opposition to Columbus Day dates to at least the 19th century, when activists sought to eradicate Columbus Day celebrations because they thought they were being used to expand Catholic influence.
Anti-Italian backlash, in part due to Mafia and organized crime activity, has unjustly been associated with the holiday. Today's opposition primarily comes from descendants of the indigenous people who Columbus enslaved and mistreated. However, others believe that Columbus
brought “reason, science, self-reliance, individualism, ambition, and productive achievement” to a people who were based in “primitivism, mysticism, and collectivism”, and to a land that was “sparsely inhabited, unused, and underdeveloped."
The reputations of other famous Americans, such as Thomas Jefferson--who was found to have fathered children with his slaves-- have been trashed through historical revisionism. Other holidays have gone by the wayside: George Washington's Birthday and Abraham Lincoln's Birthday--once national holidays--were combined into President's Day, in part because of the close calendar proximity to the more recent Martin Luther King Day.
Even though Columbas sailed to various islands in the Americas and thereby set off an exchange of cultures that is incredibly important as an historical event, based on recent studies of Columbus and other visitors to North America, it seems reasonable to change the focus of Columbus Day.
For example, Columbas Day is still celebrated as largely an Italian holiday in the United States. The most recent genetic studies of Columbus and his family, however, have concluded that Columbus comes from a Spanish Catalan family with banking and maritime interests. In fact, at one time, Columbus actually appears to have commanded a ship fighting against Phillip of Spain. It is clear now that Columbus does not have Italian connections.
More important, perhaps, are discoveries that men from Scandinavia (by way of Greenland) not only frequented the shores of North America but also set up a settlement at L'anse aux Meadows at the northeastern tip of Newfoundland. Probably settled around 1100 CE, it is undoubted proof of European habitation in North America.
In addition, depending on how one views the genuineness of the Kensington Stone in Minnesota and related artifacts, including the Newport Tower, it is quite possible that a small group of Europeans traveled from the coast of Canada or perhaps Massachusetts into the upper Midwest around 1300-1400 CE.
Rather than removing Columbus Day from the calendar, perhaps the focus should be on the cultural exchange between the New and Old Worlds rather than celebrating the fiction that Columbus discovered America.