I think Columbus Day is still worth celebrating. “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two/ Columbus sailed the ocean blue/ [and on the twelfth of October/ landed on Hispaniola].”
People rightly point out that other Europeans had seen and visited the continent(s) of America. But none of those led to the settlement to which most of us owe our presence here. So unless we wish to leave this hemisphere, we must consider ourselves in some way the beneficiaries of Columbus.
People also point out the undeniable bad results for the native populations. But, whatever his personal cruelty toward natives in subsequent years, that was not Columbus’ purpose in his first voyage. Furthermore, it seems that on balance, over time the Spaniards were less hostile toward and destructive of the native populations than the English. Above all, the evils, intended and unintended, are counterbalanced by the surpassing good of the bringing of Christianity to the native peoples.
To me, then, whatever the evils brought by Europeans to these shores — not all of which can be justifiably laid to the personal blame of Columbus — on balance no Christian and no one of European descent who continues to live here can honestly wish Columbus’ “discovery” of America hadn’t happened.