Rebuttal to Andy Rooney's comments about Columbus' importance in American History

Essay by swavsfanUniversity, Bachelor'sB+, October 2004

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It is extremely hard to take Andy Rooney seriously when he utters, "If you were going to make a list of the great times in American history, you'd start with the day in 1492, when Columbus got here." It is hard pressed to say that you can just start with someone, who for all intensive purposes, failed at what he set out to do. I do not agree with the statement made by Rooney and supported by the director of the National Endowment of Humanities. What I believe is that, the other fourteen or so groups that have been known to explore towards what is now North America. Not only talking about the previous explorations, but also Columbus and the conquest of Mexico, would be the only way I could see someone covering the perspectives and achievements of all explorers during the period of contact.

Other explorers over time have explored the region now known as North and South America. According to Loewen, fourteen different sets of exploration came to the Americas before Columbus' known voyage. From Siberia entering Alaska between 70000 B.C. and 12000 B.C., to England exploring in 1481, a plethora of explorations were in America (Loewen, 47). Due to the fact Columbus wasn't even close to being the first to discover America, it makes little sense to say that American history should start with him. Then, for the explorers after him, such as Cortez and Castillo who were in Mexico have numerous accounts of finding in-depth cities and markets just adds to the fact that there were other cultures that created what was considered a "dream" (Castillo).

When speaking of achievements about the exploration of the Americas, Lockhard's primary source document about the conquest of Mexico shows that while the takeover occurred after Columbus' sail to Haiti, the Spaniards, while conquering Mexico, took down one of the biggest empires the Americas ever saw in Tenochtitlan. Unfortunately, the Spanish basically decimated all the will that Montezuma's people had and that territory has never had such an empire to speak of again.

On the other side of the argument, one could say that it was because of Columbus that the rest of Europe began traveling to the Americas in huge numbers. Before, an explorer would just bump into the land, look at it, and leave. In the case of the Native Americans, they moved into the land, but not as much on the coasts as they did inland, so unless the explorers were looking for other life, they would not find it. When Columbus and his crew returned and informed Spain that they made it to the Indies, others decided to make the trek, and found that it was an entire new continent. I can see where people want to focus on Columbus from that perspective. It was only after his exploration that this land was intensely settled, so Rooney's statement, while ignorant of the previous explorers of this land, can at some level be justified. However, when entire civilizations existed in the area before Columbus' voyage, consideration to those groups should be given and it should go above and beyond just mentioning them like some sideshow that no one should really pay attention to.

Rooney's statement reeks of controversy. Just because it was Columbus' journey that started an entourage of Europeans to the Americas does not mean that we can ignore the others who shaped the land we now live on and give all credit to Columbus. Fourteen different voyages landed in some part of the America and that alone disproves the theory that textbooks and history courses should focus on the European explorers and their accomplishments. Hiding the truth of the past would make it seem as though we are too ignorant as a nation to talk about the reality of the past.