It’s ‘Columbus Day’ – a day dedicated to the legacy of the explorer Christopher Columbus – here in the United States. And it makes a lot of sense. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate our great country being discovered by Christopher Columbus with special sales in stores and a day out of school for the kids?
Well, for one, it doesn’t make sense because Leif Eriksson should really be the one to get credit for the ‘discovery’ of what would eventually become the United States of America.
Secondly… Weren’t people already living here? It’d be like if I went to my neighbor’s house, said I “discovered” their house, and oh by the way, their house is now mine. Weird.
There’s also that whole thing where he was directly responsible for the rape, enslavement, and murder of countless indigenous people. Not exactly a dude who deserves a day named after him, but hey, this is America.
But that’s not even the full story, as Neil deGrasse Tyson explains.
Dr. Tyson was recently on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote his new book, Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military, and shared a story about Columbus that I hadn’t heard before.
Tyson explains that on his fourth voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, Columbus was on the island of Hispaniola, but needed additional supplies to get back to Spain. He asked the locals, who weren’t having it. So, knowing that there would be a lunar eclipse the following week, Columbus threatened the natives, saying that he would use divine forces to make the moon disappear if they didn’t comply.
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And, of course, a week later the lunar eclipse begins, and the natives are understandably freaked out. The indigenous people then give Columbus the supplies he asked for – even though this means they wouldn’t have enough themselves. And midway through the eclipse, Columbus announces to the natives that their god will be good to them, and that Columbus will let the moon come back.
This is another example of how scientific knowledge can be used to manipulate those who don’t understand natural phenomenon. Knowledge truly is power.
Or as Tyson eloquently puts it, this is yet another reason that Columbus was a dick.
Watch the clip below (it should start from 3:15, when Tyson tells the story):
Complete dick move, indeed.
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