Christopher Columbus: Hero or Villain?

12/09/2010:

I get a lot of daily hits on this article so it is time for some insight. I wrote the piece back in high school about 3 years ago and still intend to maintain the original piece as it was. My opinion remains unchanged because the issue is not whether Columbus is this or that but rather how he is viewed a certain way that is dictated with a narrow-minded perspective.

You can think Columbus is a villain but it does not mean he cannot be a hero to someone else. Heroes and villains are subjective evaluations – objectively, Columbus would just be titled “historically relevant explorer”. Columbus can be a villain but it does not detract from his discoveries; he can be a hero but that doesn’t justify his actions against the natives or whatever atrocities he committed.

Look at the whole story and judge for yourself. If someone else hates them, it doesn’t make their opinion any more correct than yours. If your teacher or whomever disagrees with you, do not give up on your stance. Question them and see where the differences in thought lies; use analytical thought and filter the nonsense from the facts.

Human beings are complex creatures and these simplistic classifications of hero/villain are poor assessments of character.

A history question that was my homework. I took my time to write it, so might as well blog it in the process. Note that I am 50% clueless on Columbus and history. Don’t attack me if something is incorrect, because I am vague in facts. I didn’t alter anything so it’ll sound a bit awkward.

Out of all the famous people throughout history, only few can earn the title “hero”. Christopher Columbus is not the perfect hero, but he is the “hero” that changed the world. Columbus was aiming to find a route to the Indies. Stumbling upon the islands in the Caribbean, the welcoming natives he met seemed like the ideal people to use as servants and teach Christianity to. Spices and gold were Columbus’ real ambitions. The greed he gained can change any man into an entirely different person. The diseases brought by the Europeans easily dropped the native population. He smuggled slaves, which some died along the journey. That can be circumstantial, because we can agree that slaves were not pampered on ships.

Many can say Columbus is evil because of genocide. He didn’t care for the Arawaks, and thought they were just inferior slaves/servants. These were all written in his journal. I agree this is not a proud characteristic of Columbus, but everyone else has done the same. The United States treated their slaves the same, neglecting human worth for the sake of trade. Columbus cared too much about the virtually limitless amounts of wealth in front of him. He couldn’t see past it, and the lives it took to achieve wealth. Greed blinded him, and I think it’s reasonable that a “blind man” would not see the reality of the situation.

Without Christopher Columbus, there might not have been America. There were early explorers who claimed America and Europeans would most likely send more explorers to sea. But history is relatively short in the development of America, and the world may not be what it is currently without Columbus’ journey.

Columbus is not a true hero to me, but he’s accomplished too much to be considered a villain. I prefer to forget the flaws in him, and focus on the benefits. Every person in history had their own flaws, and no one would be close to a hero without neglecting those flaws. Christopher Columbus is a cross between villain and hero. Claiming he was in Asia does not necessarily make Columbus a liar. Back then, it was hard to tell where one could’ve sailed to, because much of the world was still undiscovered. Today in history, we can use historical evidence and virtual maps, but back then, there was just a boat and hope. Columbus was cruel to slaves, but slave-owners throughout history have done the same. As I mentioned earlier in my essay, the greed in Columbus affected his character. I am sure most people in his position would most likely do similar actions.

In the end, it is up to an individual to decide if Columbus is a hero or villain. There will always be arguments against or for Columbus. But the 1500s was a very different time, and mentalities were different. Spain wanted the world, and I think they could care less who or what got in their way. Wealth is a good trade-off for anything Columbus did.

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