But that doesn't mean that I am a fan of Columbus. The thing is that Christopher Columbus was vile even by the standards of imperialist slavers. He was a child-raping, murdering, horrific brutal slaver. I very quickly run out of adjectives and nouns to describe him. Here -- read what The Oatmeal has to say about him: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/columbus_d
My solace is that he has nothing to do with the United States. He's a monster who ravaged the Caribbean, but nothing on the mainland, and certainly nothing in North America. Were there good effects of this? Well, the discovery of the Caribbean DID give an escape route to Jews fleeing from the Spanish Inquisition, so much so that, in some parts of the 16th century Caribbean, "Portuguese" was a code word meaning "hidden Jew". The European colonization of the Caribbean wasn't ENTIRELY bad -- just MOSTLY bad, and Columbus was unimaginably so.
So why do we have an American federal holiday celebrating him? Because the Knights of Columbus, although they did, and do, a lot of good work, are terrible at symbolism. I'm also annoyed at the K of C for jamming "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance, which destroys the entire meaning of it.
The K of C wanted an American Catholic symbol. We've got a LOT of better ones now. Heck, trade in Columbus for JFK and we're better off. The Bay of Pigs is nowhere near as bad as kidnapping ten year old girls and selling them into sexual slavery.