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Transcript: Thom Hartmann: The Big Picture: Happy Genocide Day. 10 October '11
Today is Columbus Day - which means Americans get the day off work to commemorate Christopher Columbus "discovering" the so-called “New World”… even though it had already been discovered - and was settled for tens of thousands of years before Columbus showed up.
But what we’re really celebrating today is…
Happy Genocide Day - the day when Christopher Columbus began to wipe out an entire indigenous population in a way that would even make Pol Pot blush.
In 1492 - Columbus was on a manic hunt for gold when he set sail and eventually landed at Hispaniola.
As he wrote in a letter to the King and Queen of Spain:
Gold is most excellent; gold constitutes treasure; and he who has it does all he wants in the world, and can even lift souls up to Paradise.
But when he landed in what he called the New World - he found something just as good as gold - he found millions of people living a peaceful idyllic life - people who in Columbus’s mind would make great slaves.
As he again wrote to the Spanish monarchs:
They are well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane... . They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.
Here there are so many of these slaves…although they are living things they are as good as gold...
What Columbus did to the island and the tragedy that he brought to the native population there - has been largely erased by time - and replaced by a glorified story of a bold explorer who changed the planet.
In reality though - as a result of what we've learned from writings by Christopher Columbus's own men - and he himself, for that matter - he raped, pillaged, enslaved and slaughtered millions of people just to get rich. Not exactly the type of guy worthy of a Main Street parade.
One of Columbus's crew men - Miguel Cueno described the scene when Columbus arrived in Hispaniola for the second time - and thousands of Tainos - or what were referred to as "Indians" - came out to greet the ships.
When our caravels... where to leave for Spain, we gathered...one thousand six hundred male and female persons of those Indians...For those who remained, we let it be known [to the Spaniards] in the vicinity that anyone who wanted to take some of them could do so, to the amount desired, which was done.
Cueno went on to write that he took his own sex slave - a beautiful teenage girl who in his words, "resisted with all her strength" - leaving him no other choice but to "thrash her mercilessly and rape her.
And when Columbus's men did good work - Columbus routinely presented them with their very own sex slaves.
But that was just the beginning - Columbus eventually started up a global child-sex-slave trade - exporting Indians all around the world.
As he bragged to a friend in a letter written in 1500:
A hundred castellanoes (a Spanish coin) are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten (years old) are now in demand.
I guess Columbus's child sex slave trade didn't make into most history books.
Eventually - under Columbus's orders - life for the Taino on their homeland of Hispaniola got so bad - they resorted to mass suicide.
As the Spanish missionary Pedro Cordoba noted in 1517 - 25 years after Columbus arrived:
As a result of the sufferings and hard labor they endured, the Indians choose and have chosen suicide. Occasionally a hundred have committed mass suicide. The women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth... Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery.
By the time Cordoba wrote those words - the indigenous population on Hispaniola had plummeted from roughly 3 million people before Columbus arrived to only twelve thousand 25 years later.
A few decades later - no one was left...an entire culture and people completely wiped off the map - and largely forgotten - thanks to Christopher Columbus.
And today - oddly - we celebrate this man.
And thus we perpetuate this cycle of slaughter and destruction - from what the Celts did 3000 years ago to aboriginal Europeans - to what the Romans did 2000 years ago to the few tribes left in Europe - to what early European settlers did to the Native Americans - to what our military did to Philippinos at the turn of the 20th century - to the covert CIA operations that gave dictators in Africa and South America free reign for mass murder - to what our ongoing wars in the Middle East are doing today to millions who've been maimed, displaced, and killed.
Tragically - we've truly become the nation that Columbus birthed.
We don't just celebrate Columbus today - we celebrate a history of brutality.
Which is why it's all the more important that we all, collectively, say "no" to war and wind down our worldwide military empire.
If we adopt the values of the people Columbus conquered and destroyed - peace, trust, and egalitarianism - you know, there may still be hope for America.
That's The Big Picture.