Skip to comments."Columbus and his merry band of murderers" (and my reply)
Posted on 10/14/2002 1:25:48 PM PDT by J Schweinbagel
Columbus and his merry band of murderers
I have relatives with names like Pasqualino, Angelina and Antonio.
While there's no Uncle Junior, as there is in the Soprano family, I can lay claim to a Cousin Sonny. There's also Uncle Uncle, now dead, whom we simply called "Uncle" out of expediency.
My Italian half is my mother's side. I mention this up front by way of claiming license to bad-mouth the man from Genoa whose name we celebrate today.
To tell the truth, I never gave Christopher Columbus much thought until last spring when a student in my OCCC English class gave me an education. Jim Quinlan, a bright student and wonderful writer, chose to do his research paper on the explorer.
Until then, I'd had only a vague notion that Columbus had been less than kind to the Indians he came across in his search for gold in the New World. But it was the details in Jim's paper that prompted me to do some further research of my own.
Details like, "Although the Arawak Indians immediately offered gifts and hospitality to Columbus and his men, Spain's armada was trained to kill and disembowel any who stood in the way of their mission: the acquisition of slaves and gold."
Details like, "Natives were pointlessly hanged with their feet barely touching ground so the torture would be prolonged."
Details like, "Babies were hurled against rocks if they were to let out a stifled cry."
The things a teacher can learn from her students.
These are not, however, the things I learned from my teachers. Until I read Jim's paper, my opinion of Columbus had been formed by elementary school social studies books. My version of history came from chapters with titles like, "Christopher Columbus: America's Greatest Hero."
Those chapters, of course, left out any mention of the fact that Columbus' arrival in the New World resulted in genocide.
While I was making paper cut-outs of the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria, no one bothered to tell me that Columbus' band of merry men hunted Indians for sport, then fed the bodies to their hunting dogs.
No one told me that he crammed as many Arawaks onto his ships as would fit and sent them to Spain as slaves. The women were raped by the crew, over and over. It was a long trip for those who survived.
No one told me that, ultimately, about 30 million people died as a result of Columbus' arrival. He didn't do it all by himself, of course. His arrival paved the way for Cortes and Pizzaro and the rest of the boys who subscribed to the theory that the only good Indian is a tortured and dead Indian.
You gotta think big, I guess. You kill one person, you get the death penalty; you kill a whole population, you get a holiday.
There are those, including some responsible historians, who say it's unfair to judge Columbus' actions by today's standards. After all, torture, murder and rape were just what the cool kids did for kicks 500 years ago. Everybody did it.
Maybe so. But I've decided to forego a toast to "America's Greatest Hero" this year, even as I celebrate my Italian heritage. I'll toast the Arawaks, instead, I think. And Uncle Uncle, too, of course.
I have a bright class at OCCC this semester. A lot of fun, a lot of opinions. I expect to learn something from them, too.
Not tonight, of course. My Monday night class is canceled this week. Like most schools, the college observes the national holiday in honor of Christopher Columbus.
"Are you a columnist who's run out of things to write about? Tired of calling George W. Bush an idiot? Weary of attacking capitalism? Looking for a juicy topic guaranteed to generate lots of angry reader mail while impressing your leftist colleagues?
Well, don't despair! Simply tear down a Pillar of American Society (tm)!
That's right! In your next screed, just point out that the Pillars of American Society (tm) really weren't the swell people we learned about in our history books! For instance, Lincoln didn't really want to free the slaves; he just did that to further his political career! Not only that, but Washington owned slaves! Heck, Jefferson fooled around with his!
And Columbus...whoo hoo! We're talking genocide here, baby! A fine example is Beth Quinn's October 14 column, "Columbus and his Merry Band of Murderers"! (Catchy title, eh?)
In it, Beth repeats the usual line about how Uncle Chris raped and looted and slaughtered everything he could get his blood-stained hands on...wow! Thirty million killed, all because of Columbus! (Of course, that's peanuts compared to Stalin or Mao, but your dink readers don't know that, and besides, they think Stalin and Mao were the bad guys, for pity's sake!)
The best part about Beth's column is its confessional "I-used-to-believe-that-old-garbage-but-now-I-know-the-truth" style! "To tell the truth, I never gave Christopher Columbus much thought until last spring when a student in my OCCC English class gave me an education," she writes! Why, it's like Oprah talking to Dr. Phil! It's not just a column, it's an example of personal growth! Impressive stuff!
"But Columbus day is over," you cry. "What'll I write about now?" Buck up, campers...there's plenty of material available all year round! Here's a few to get you started:
November: "Why Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Makes Me Deeply Ashamed!"
December: "Santa Claus: Time To Take The Old SOB Out Back And Shoot Him!"
January: "Today's The Birthday Of Ronald Reagan, A Man Whose Name I Can Barely Type Without Retching!"
February: "Valentine's Day: Burn Down The Malls!"
So, get to it, columnists! Tear down a Pillar of American Society(tm) today! After all, it sure beats working for a living, eh?"
You need to see what is being taught to our kids. Is it any wonder they think as they do? (overpopulation problems given in math, history taught from a Marxist perspective, whitey always seen as the bad guy [Johnnie Cochran mined this one] readings in English consistently deal with depressing, suicidal and occult themes, evolution is the overriding theme in science etc.)
Never heard of Beth Quinn. I see that critical thinking is not her forte (she probably also gets her info from all those stupid forwwaraded e-mails that spam our computers).
Rigoberta Menchu, the lying nobel prize laureate, was brought to the fore in 1992, to detract from the 500th anniversary of Chris' excellent adventure. She came to our school and was hailed as a "hero."
BTW, the reason Chris is defiled is because he saw himself as being on a Mission from God to spread Catholicism.
Unforgiveable to a liberal.
What the h*ll is this person doing as a teacher in a school?
In a world of war and might makes right, the Indians were overrun by a superior civilization. They made war and enslaved each other. They engaged in cannibalism, torture, human sacrifice, body mutilation etc. They got their asses kicked by a stronger civilization: Europe. This sanctimonious whining about Columbus is a desparate attempt to get emotional reparations.
So let's agree there was slavery and war and disease on evryone's part and the Indians lost. Now what!
"Be sure," said Candide [to Cacambo], "to represent to them how frightfully inhuman it is to cook men, and how very un-Christian."
"Gentlemen," said Cacambo..."the law of nature teaches us to kill our neighbor, and such is the practice all over the world. If we do not accustom ourselves to eating them, it is because we have better fare. But you have not the same resources as we; certainly it is much better to devour your enemies than to resign to the crows and rooks the fruits of your victory."
Columbus Day has been twisted into an "Italian-American holiday" when it's supposed to be a day for all Americans to honor one important historical figure. That's why "Italian-Americans" are defensive in the face of this criticism.
I honestly don't know how Columbus should be taught in schools. He was one of the most pivotal figures of positive change in the last milenium. He was also a rapist. Not easy to distill into an 8th grade history lesson.
If Columbus had not sailed, the New World would have been discovered not long afterwards by the Portuguese or by the English, and the Portuguese voyages to India and East Asia would have begun to wake the Europeans up from their provincialism even if the New World had remained unknown.
Did Columbus discover America? Yes in every important respect. This does not mean that no human eye had been cast on America before Columbus arrived. It does mean that Columbus brought America to the attention of the civilized world, i.e., to the growing, scientific civilizations of Western Europe. The result, ultimately, was the United States of America. It was Columbus discovery for Western Europe that led to the influx of ideas and people on which this nation was founded and on which it still rests. The opening of America brought the ideas and achievements of Aristotle, Galileo, Newton, and the thousands of thinkers, writers, and inventors who followed.
Prior to 1492, what is now the United States was sparsely inhabited, unused, and undeveloped. The inhabitants were primarily hunter-gatherers, wandering across the land, living from hand-to-mouth and from day-to-day. There was virtually no change, no growth for thousands of years. 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. Whatever the problems it brought, the vilified Western culture also brought enormous, undreamed-of benefits, without which most of todays Indians would be infinitely poorer or not even alive.
Columbus should be honored, for in so doing, we honor Western civilization. But the critics do not want to bestow such honor, because their real goal is to denigrate the values of Western civilization and to glorify the primitivism, mysticism, and collectivism embodied in the tribal cultures of American Indians. They decry the glorification of the West as Eurocentrism. We should, they claim, replace our reverence for Western civilization with multi-culturalism, which regards all cultures as morally equal. In fact, they arent. Some cultures are better than others: a free society is better than slavery; reason is better than brute force as a way to deal with other men; productivity is better than stagnation. In fact, Western civilization stands for man at his best. It stands for the values that make human life possible: reason, science, self-reliance, individualism, ambition, productive achievement. The values of Western civilization are values for all men; they cut across gender, ethnicity, and geography. We should honor Western civilization not for the ethnocentric reason that some of us happen to have European ancestors but because it is the objectively superior culture.
Underlying the political collectivism of the anti-Columbus crowd is a racist view of human nature. They claim that ones identity is primarily ethnic: if one thinks his ancestors were good, he will supposedly feel good about himself; if he thinks his ancestors were bad, he will supposedly feel self-loathing. But it doesnt work; the achievements or failures of ones ancestors are monumentally irrelevant to ones actual worth as a person. Only the lack of a sense of self leads one to look to others to provide what passes for a sense of identity. Neither the deeds nor misdeeds of others are his own; he can take neither credit nor blame for what someone else chose to do. There are no racial achievements or racial failures, only individual achievements and individual failures. One cannot inherit moral worth or moral vice. Self-esteem through others is a self-contradiction.
Thus the sham of preserving ones heritage as a rational life goal. Thus the cruel hoax of multicultural education as an antidote to racism: it will continue to create more racism.
Individualism is the only alternative to the racism of political correctness. We must recognize that everyone is a sovereign entity, with the power of choice and independent judgment. That is the ultimate value of Western civilization, and it should be proudly proclaimed.
Columbus spent most of his time in the New World unsuccessfully looking for a passage to India. He had little control over the colonists in Hispanola, whose natives were forced into labor because the Spanish were trying to make a profit on their expedition. This was the same thing that the Spanish had done in the Canaries earlier, but even this was sop in an era of war between the Spaniards and the Moors. Disease. of course, was the main killer, rape etc. being no worse than usual in wars of conquest.