To the Editor:
It was Polybius, a Greek father of modern history, who was among the first to define history as the search for truth. As we draw closer to perhaps the most controversial holiday on the calendar, it is time that everybody seeks the truth about the highly celebrated explorer, Christopher Columbus.
Because the story of Christopher Columbus has been misconstrued throughout history and before anybody makes a judgement on whether or not to celebrate the national holiday, they should know the facts.
The popular story of Columbus’s voyage has been far romanticized. While the popular belief states that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 to prove the world was round, this story was actually the creation of an author seeking an interesting story. Washington Irving, author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, created the narrative for his 1828 novel "The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus."
Despite the facts that he had all the facts available to him, Irving embellished the story to fabricate a narrative that he liked better and because the novel was labelled as biographical, the tale of a swashbuckling scientific visionary has become widely accepted as fact.
Not only is the story of Columbus's voyage itself far from the truth, but the origins of the holiday itself have been warped beyond recognition. While many believe that we have the second Monday in October off to celebrate the accomplishments of the explorer, the national holiday was dreamt up and advocated for by Italian-Americans in 1934 who were seeking to demonstrate their patriotism in an attempt to lessen the discrimination they faced at the time. The national holiday was actually established in 1934 to ensure the Italian vote in the upcoming election. Columbus Day is not a national holiday because Christopher Columbus was deemed deserving, but because a politician wanted to get elected.
So whether one decides to acknowledge Columbus Day or not, it is important to do as Polybius said and seek the truth in order to make a truly informed decision.