This Columbus Day, James Carroll invites us to reconsider the man and his motivations. Pop culture has secularized Columbus, concentrating on his mission in search of gold, spices, and trade routes. That ignores his central motivation: expanding the dominion of Christianity. An “old Crusader” ambition motivated Columbus, Carroll writes for the Boston Globe. Europe had failed to kick the Muslims out of the Holy Land, and "freedom from Islamic control was the point."
Thus Columbus wrote to his royal sponsors, as fellow “enemies of the sect of Mahomet” confirming his intention to see the people of India, and “the manner in which may be undertaken their conversion to our Holy Faith.” He pledged all gold he might find to “be spent in the conquest of Jerusalem.” We'd do well to consider that the Islamaphobia, apocalyptic impulse, and obsession with Jerusalem whitewashed from Columbus' story remain “pillars of the American problem today.”