On the occasion of Columbus Day, the observations of the late Hans Konig come to mind. Konig, then writing of the 500th anniversary of the explorer's arrival in the Americas, stated:
The miserable truth is that those first encounters on the Indian side quickly led to last encounters. The Indians of the Caribbean were destroyed within two generations by the Spanish discoverers. Not one of them was converted to the Catholic faith, which was supposedly a prime motive of those voyages. They died when they were hanged, in rows of 13, ''in honor of the Redeemer and His twelve Apostles,'' according to the original Spanish documents.
They had their hands cut off when they did not bring in their quarterly quota of gold dust. Their chiefs were roasted on fires of green wood. When their cries kept the Spaniards awake, they were silenced with wooden slats put over their tongues. Ten years after the first landing, the miserable native survivors started killing themselves by eating poisoned roots.
Yes, Christopher Columbus was the first European to sail to America in recorded history. But Columbus set into motion a sequence of greed, cruelty, slavery and genocide that, even in the bloody history of mankind, has few parallels. He organized an extermination of native Americans. He was also as mean, cruel and greedy in small matters as he was in vast ones.