In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. This is perhaps the only element agreed upon these days when applied to the Great Navigator. In these days of historical re-visionaries, facts are discarded when convenient, events are taken out of context and editorials are created as a means of not only furthering an agenda, but also to perpetuate distortions of relevant truths. The purpose of this article to set straight the legacy of Christopher Columbus and why Italians are justifiably proud of his accomplishment that changed the course of human events.

The Dangerous Mr. Zinn

As any historian, lecturer or professor will tell you, context is the key to understanding and drawing conclusions about events. Facts that are left out in an attempt to prove a point amount to a distortion of the truth. When a specific agenda is attached to such writing, what results in no longer history, it is propaganda. Such is the case of a man named Howard Zinn.

Zinn (1922-2010) was a communist historian who became most famous for writing “A People’s History of the United States,” first published 40 years ago. His unremittingly Marxist retelling of our nation’s past focuses on the ‘people’s struggle.’ Fired from a tenured teaching position at Atlanta’s Spelman College in 1963 for radicalizing students, Zinn plays to the plight of the underdog by finding fault in every point of progress in the history of this nation (from 1492 to present), except in the case of social causes. Reading through passages of the book, a malleable mind is drawn to the inescapable conclusion that our nation has got it all wrong – seeking personal gain at the expense of others is wrong or amassing wealth while others live in squalor is wrong. When framed in Zinn’s language, such statements are indisputable. When placed in context, they are deeply flawed. Is competition in sports and school wrong? Is a merit-based system of promotion wrong? Is working hard to provide a better life for your family wrong? Of course not, yet these features that underpin our society fall under attack, veiled in the name of social equality. Do we really want our children to learn the ‘new math of Howard Zinn where capitalism = evil; socialism = good and equality = entitlement? He insists that it was necessary to look at socialism in its full historical context as a popular, positive idea that acquired a bad name.

Liberal university professors jumped for joy when the book came out. Rather than a traditional, fact-based history book, the professors could make the Zinn manifesto required reading; many did. Zinn’s method of making his points begins by selecting a specific historical figure whom he then proceeds to tear apart. Great and important figures are turned into demons, where every character flaw is amplified, every mistake magnified. A vague reference written centuries ago becomes evidence for indictment. It is character assassination where those on trial are provided no defense. Zinn attacks the individual, but embraces groups – organized labor movements being his favorite. Zinn’s ego, already inflated, grew to unbelievable proportions. He was no longer satisfied having written his version of history, he wanted to become part of history. In 1998, in an interview for a communist newspaper, Zinn stated “I wanted my writing of history and my teaching of history to be part of social struggle. I wanted to be a part of history and not just a recorder and teacher of history.”

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His now famous book is universally endorsed by anti-establishment, anti-government and anti-American groups. It is a factually inaccurate and dangerous retelling of history which leaves out facts, includes biased and inaccurate translations, presents events out of context and has a specific agenda – to promote Marxism in the minds of impressionable students. His work was celebrated by the left wing as being innovative – a fresh look at history from a unique perspective, yet Zinn the historian is a one-trick pony conditioned by socialist, communist and even anarchist precepts. He even uses the line “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” Zinn characterizes the founding of our country as a Machiavellian trick to usurp British Empire profits and subjugate the American populace.

As a matter of context, you are surely wondering how a communist history book could gain traction in the United States? Why was Zinn allowed to continue to promote his ideals if he was so anti-American? The reasons that worked in his favor include the liberal bias of many university professors, the compellingly written attacks on so many historical figures and the heroes that emerge in every chapter – the underdog. Zinn is a very good writer. The points that he wishes to make are well thought out. It is no wonder that “A People’s History of the United States” is used as a primer in educational circles for the indoctrination of our youth into socialist ideals. The fruits of Zinn’s labor are now not only heard in universities, but in Congress as well.

Zinn’s book begins with “Columbus, the Indians and Human Progress” as the first chapter. It is fraught with inaccuracies. Zinn described the history from the perspective of the Arawak tribe. Since there are no written accounts by the Native Americans, Zinn creates his own narrative, in great part using translations of the writings of Bartolomé de las Casas and adding his own view of what the people must have felt. De las Casas was a Spanish priest and colonialist. He was also a socialist centuries before Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels coined the term. His writings and views of colonial expansion fit perfectly with Zinn’s mastery of fact manipulation. It is through these interpretations that Zinn placed Columbus on trial and it is Zinn’s chapter that has resulted in all of the unjust and outrageous uproar about Christopher Columbus today. If anyone wishes to find the smoking gun, it was in the hands of Comrade Zinn.

There are three topics that are used to vilify Columbus today. They are being taught in schools and are accepted as fact by teachers, who should know better; by students who do not know any better and by the liberally-biased media, which care little for facts when fake news serves to support its agenda.

Myth One – Columbus was Motivated by Greed

Christopher Columbus was driven by religious fervor and a belief that saving one’s soul could only occur if one embraced Christianity. Columbus was not unique in this perception. For context, the Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición, more commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition began in 1478, established by Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. Their names should ring a bell. The monarchs sponsored the voyages of Columbus. The Inquisition which continued until 1534, was intended to convert everyone under Spanish rule to Catholicism. This was not an inclusive society, but that was Europe in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. To save one’s soul for all eternity, one had to be Catholic. Was this attitude wrong? Absolutely and in today’s society, the actions would be condemned and viewed as a violation of an individual’s right to free will. Did the king and queen believe they were helping people to reach their eternal reward in the afterlife? Absolutely, but that was five centuries ago. Context is key.