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November 5, 2004

Old History discovers the New History

This past October I have read several editorials and opinion pieces condemning those who do not think that Christopher Columbus is one of America's heroes. I would not mind yet I found so much hate in their words that I just had to look into it. It seems, these people say, that Western Civilization itself is under attack and that these attacks are nothing but lies:

"Columbus is routinely vilified as a symbol of slavery and genocide, and the celebration of his arrival likened to a celebration of hitler and the holocaust. The attacks on Columbus are ominous, because the actual target is Western civilization." [1]
"These methods allow multiculturalists to undercut Western civilization's essential values that are timeless and superior for all humans, so as to raise as culturally and morally "equal" the anti-life essence of Indian cultures." [2]

While reminding us of our own superiority these same people stress the inferiority of the natives:

"With rare exception, life was nasty, brutish, and short: there was no wheel, no written language, no division of labor, little agriculture and scant permanent settlement; but there were endless, bloody wars." [3]
"Besides many Indian tribes enslaving and ritually sacrificing the lives of their individual tribesman, they constantly invaded, warred with, looted and enslaved other tribes." [4]
"The land was not in use, evidenced by the pathetic level of any kind of progress, intellectual or material, on the part of nearly all Indian tribes despite thousands of years in lands of great plenty and separated from the other people of the world who could have potentially meddled with them." [5]

And these boobs whom I have quoted above are simply repeating the legends and falsehoods they have learned as children. For no intelligent and objective individual can research the history of the various peoples of the Americas--from the hundreds of tribes of the north to the large civilizations to the south--and still repeat words such as theirs.

There actually was mass slavery and destruction of the indigenous peoples of the New World by the masters of the Old World.

Slavery, as we think of it today, was more akin to servitude before the discovery of the New World. Slavery of a mass scale with the suppression and ownership of generations of "inferior" peoples, sanctioned by the church, is an invention of the Europeans.

Whatever the population of the peoples found by Columbus in 1492 (150,000 to 3,000,000), within 50 years there were only hundreds left. Whatever the estimates, they all plummet as the years go by.

"...to such a degree that this Island of Hispaniola once so populous (having a population that I estimated to be more than three million), has now a population of barely two hundred persons." [6]

But these facts, though, are no big deal when viewed from a European point of view--it was just history as usual. The European powers like Italy, Spain, France, England, etc. were constantly and consistently at war with themselves and the rest of the world.

The great European powers were always exploring and exploiting.

One can say that that is how they became the great European powers in the first place.

Columbus and many of the other "great adventurers" and "great explorers" were specifically charged with conquering lands for there wealth as the documents of their day show ("...those you shall conquer and subdue..." [12a]). The first thing Columbus did, as did all the of the "adventurers", was to take possession:

"The Admiral called upon the two Captains ... to bear witness that he before all others took possession (as in fact he did) of that island for the King and Queen his sovereigns...." [12b]

A certain backlash against the widespread fight to "multiculturalize" Columbus Day is expected I suppose, because, as the history of the New World is written about from a non-eurocentric view, those who believe in historical legend are seeing their world unmasked.

More and more diverse cultural voices are being heard these days--making their way into the mainstream press, and into our schools. The days of history as the re-telling of legend are in decline.

Certainly some of these new voices swing too far and fall into the category of "European bashing" (comparing Christopher Columbus to Adolph Hitler for example). But as I read those who are in defense of historical legends such as Columbus, I read only the repeat of legend and the repeat of the "they deserved it" mantra.

Notes

Defenders of Legend

[1] Ayn Rand Institute
[2] Christopher Columbus: Multiculturalism vs. Objective History
[3] Christopher Columbus, We Salute You
[4] Clueless About Columbus
[5] "Columbus: Fact vs. Fiction" by the Order Sons of Italy in America

Scholarly Look at Columbus

[6] Bartoleme de Las Casas, Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies
[7] Examining the reputation of Christopher Columbus
[8] Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress
[9] Catholic Encyclopedia: Christopher Columbus
[10] A Brief History of the European Myth of the Garden

Historical Documents

[11] The Columbus Letter
[12] From Revolution to Reconstruction: Documents
[12a] Privileges and prerogatives granted to Columbus
[12b] Extracts from Journal
[13] Documents For The Study Of American History

Further Reading

"The Indian and the White Man", Wilcomb E. Washburn
"Who Gave Pinta to the Santa Maria", Robert S. Desowitz
"Man's Rise to Civilization as Shown by the Indians of North America", Peter Farb
"Indian Givers," Jack Weatherford

Afterword

We celebrate Columbus Day because various organizations like the Knights of Columbus lobbied the government over the years to declare October the 12th a holiday. (As a federal holiday it is celebrated on the 2nd Monday of October.) Celebrating Columbus was not an idea of the public at large.

George W. Bush really likes Columbus Day:

Bush Proclaims October 14 Columbus Day
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON COLUMBUS DAY
Remarks by the President In Signing of Columbus Day Proclamation
(C) 2004-2013, Greg Jennings