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Thomas of the Living Dead @tlecaque
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It's #ColumbusDay and my oldest came to class with me, so I couldn't give my traditional #columbuswasamurderer lesson to my students. I was disappointed. Thankfully, Twitter is here, so here we go.
First, I do know that Columbus is in many ways a product of his time, specifically the economic and political crisis in Genoa post-1453 and the fall of Constantinople--we find Genoese cartographers, navigators and sailors all over the place in the aftermath, so...
Columbus himself is an experienced sailor--he travels the Eastern Mediterranean, up to Ireland/UK/maybe Iceland, down the coast of Africa to Guinea... he's not just some random dude with a plan, he's a random well-traveled sailor with a plan.
OK, that's as far as my "both sides" bullshit will go, because seriously, fuck Columbus. Gets himself a good ass job thanks to his brother, a high quality mapmaker in Lisbon. Uses that family prestige to marry into the nobility (ah, when being a quality artisan meant you were
solid upper class material). And then, having married into the nobility, made some cash, he presents The Plan.
I like to hope no one outside of the #flatearthsociety people is trying to tell you people thought the world was flat up until Columbus--I got that once of twice in junior high, and it seemed liked nonsense then.
...that's because it was. It was bullshit. Startling levels of bullshit. If we're just going Europe, the Greeks calculate that the world is round a good 2000 years earlier. And it gets re-calculated in the Middle Ages. Noone, and I mean noone, thinks its flat.
You hear that Flat Earthers? NO ONE. NO ONE THINKS THAT.
The reason all the people aren't sailing west is sure as hell NOT because people think they're going to fall off the edge but BECAUSE THEY CALCULATED APPROXIMATE SIZE OF THE PLANET. Really think about that for a second: if you know approximately the size of the globe, but NOT abt
the Americas, then you think you're sailing the total distance from Lisbon to Shanghai GOING WEST. Which is, of course, a distinctly stupid idea which is why no one had tried it.
AND ANOTHER THING. Columbus isn't even the first Italian asshole to show up to the Portuguese court and try to sell this--a Florentine astronomer had proposed it a decade earlier, but without a lot of logistics, just that it could be done. So he's not even original in the plan.
So, Columbus shows up, present his plan, the Portuguese are interested, pass it on to a panel of experts, who unanimously REJECT THE STUPIDITY. Now, we know he makes it to the Caribbean, so why are they so quick to reject it?
Biblical. Exegesis. Is. Not. Good. Navigation.

This is why his math is so bad--it's based on already faulty estimates from geographical tomes, but he combines this with a personal interest in exegesis and uses a passage of 2nd Esdras saying that God dried up 6/7ths of the water.
Now like any respectable middle aged male Christian apocalypse cultist (we'll get back to this), he reacts...

Well, he moves to Spain, abandons his wife and kid, and gets a 20 year old mistress, so yeah, about what you'd expect.
So he comes back in 1488 with tweaked math, but Dias has just rounded the Cape of Good Hope so they give absolutely no fucks. He and his brother try Genoa, Venice, the UK, all of whom are busy, and finally Spain, who are also busy but more interested.
Spain is busy crusading against the Nasrid Emirate of Grenada, so they have him stick around, give him an allowance, and get down to eliminating an ancient, advanced, and beautiful culture in order to built a fully Catholic kingdom of the deeply Gospel principles of conquest and
torture, so there's that. When they take Grenada, we get manuscript burning (a hallmark of Spanish conquests), forced conversions, all the standard Spanish Inquisition shit, expulsion of the Jews... I mean, their Most Catholic Majesties are just peaches.
So they fund Christopher Columbus, and in 1492 he sails across the ocean blue, and despite fucking up on every level survives the voyage. Oh, but he does absolutely steal the gold reward for first person to see land from the guy in the crow's nest, writing back that he'd seen it
the night before and didn't want to wake the crew. Nice guy.

And this is where is gets bad, and why #ColumbusDay is an abomination of a holiday.
Columbus kidnaps natives as both sex slaves for his crew and as exhibits to take home. When they occupy land, they force the Taino peoples into slavery, with little food or shelter and quite literally work them to death. Columbus as a governor used torture and mutilation to not
keep native populations terrified and in line but ALSO to keep Spanish colonists from crossing him--the court records of his trial for tyranny were found in 2006, so its out there. He embezzled relentlessly from the state; one of the two books he wrote, the Book of Privileges, is
both the least interesting #medieval book I've ever read and also a full blown legal defense against the Crown's completely legitimate charges against him.
Because of his actions and the system he set up, combined with the innumerable epidemics the Spanish bring, by the mid-16th c. the Taino people are almost all dead--we call that genocide.
Because the combination of starvation, exposure, plague, beatings, and overwork wipe out the Taino, and are already wiping them out while Columbus is governor, the fucker writes that they should start IMPORTING SLAVES FROM AFRICA TO WORK THE PLANTATIONS.
Oh, but children, it's not done. It keeps going. Because we need to deal with the apocalyptic preacher part of this shit.
It is not only throughout his letters, but Columbus writes a book called the Book of Prophecies which lays out his eschatological vision and puts himself at the center of it: Columbus' "discover" of "India" sets up the end of the world Last World Emperor style.
1. Discover India and convert all the people.
2. Bring the gold and population in so that Spain can reunite Europe.
3. Discover the Garden of Eden--which Columbus says he does, btw, seeing the coastline of Venezuela.
4. With all this, Ferdinand and Isabella can reclaim Jerusalem.
All thanks to little old latter-day John of Patmos, Christopher Columbus.

No. Seriously. He thinks he is the harbinger of the Apocalypse.
This genocidal, murderous, slavery-adopting, tyrannical fuck thought he was the Chosen Prophet to End the World.

That's the fuck weasel we're dealing with.
This. This is what we celebrate when we celebrate #ColumbusDay. Genocide of Native people. Organized rape, torture, and murder. Embezzlement. Tyranny. The birth of the American slave trade. Shitty mathematics. Christian apocalypticism.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
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