"It's time for a little trek through history because Columbus' achievement is relevant to where we are today," wrote Allen West, the conservative commentator and former Republican congressman. "To understand his achievement, we need to put the whole episode into context."

West notes that Columbus set out on his voyage the same year the Moors were finally driven from Spain after nearly 800 years, and about 40 years after the fall of Constantinople into Ottoman hands.

"So the man from Genoa … stepped forward not only to challenge the belief that the world was flat, but to find a westward route by sea to the Indies and China," West argues. "With the defeat of the Islamic armies, Columbus believed he could find favor with Ferdinand and Isabella, and indeed Isabella took a liking and supported Columbus' endeavor. So we can thank Islamic conquest for inspiring Columbus to find a new trade route west."

However, most educated people in Europe and the Muslim world were aware of ancient proof that the world was round, and some scholars claim African and Muslim explorers had reached the New World centuries before Columbus.

His conservative champions don't exactly dispute that Columbus enslaved the natives he met in the West Indies, but they argue that was more merciful than simply killing them – and besides, they insist, he was doing God's work.

And short FB convo I had with a friend about Columbus Day. Her daughter is an overly dramatic little girl so I can really see her doing this in class.

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