Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
Columbus Day Celebrates Western Civilization
October 04, 2007
Irvine, CA—Columbus Day, observed this year on October 8, will celebrate the 515th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's discovery of America.
"Although in recent decades Columbus Day has fallen out of favor in many circles, it is vitally important that we continue to celebrate this holiday with pride," said Thomas Bowden, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute.
"Columbus Day is, at root, a celebration of the worldwide spread of Western civilization—a value that is under attack from multiculturalists at home and Islamic totalitarians abroad.
"Multiculturalism, which rejects the idea that some cultures are superior to others, makes it possible for American Indian activists to get away with castigating Columbus as a 'cultural imperialist,' calling for abolition of his holiday and replacing it with 'Indigenous Peoples Day.' This is outrageous. Contrary to the multiculturalist position, it is possible to demonstrate objectively that one society is superior to another—by the standard of what benefits human life. By this standard, modern industrial society is incomparably superior to the barbaric, tribalistic Stone Age culture of the Indians who predated Columbus.
"Those who attack Columbus Day are attacking the distinctive values of Western civilization that America so proudly embraces—reason, science, individual rights, and capitalism. This is especially dangerous at a time when those exact values are under assault from Islamic totalitarians who terrorize us as part of their quest to destroy our civilization and replace it with a worldwide Islamic theocracy.
"Americans need to understand that their lives and happiness are at stake in the struggle to uphold the core values of Western civilization—a struggle that is epitomized by the continuing controversy over Columbus Day.
"We need not evade or excuse Columbus's flaws—his religious zealotry, his enslavement and oppression of natives—to recognize that he made history by finding new territory for a civilization that would soon show mankind how to overcome the age-old scourges of slavery, war, and forced religious conversion," Bowden said. "On Columbus Day, we must continue to celebrate that civilization, and declare our resolve to defend it against both its intellectual and political enemies."
A Native reply
This isn't a direct reply to Bowden's screed, but it addresses the general idea of celebrating Columbus.
Columbus fray no holiday
Posted: October 04, 2007
by: Editors Report / Indian Country Today
The popular notion that indigenous populations of the Americas were primitive and uncivilized informed the post-Columbian celebration of a "discovery" of a "new world." Sadly, it still does, and with as much fervor as ever. Despite decades of debunking the founding myth of the Americas by indigenous scholars — not to mention many non-academic Indian sages — the fabric of American culture still allows for outdated and wrong, racist and paternalistic information to persist. "This tendency is so ingrained in the culture that people don't even recognize racist remarks when they are directed at Indians," wrote the late John Mohawk in 2006. "They're freebies!"
As Columbus Day comes and goes this year, it is not difficult to find instances of these freebies in the media. A Denver Post columnist, fed up with Indians using the city's Columbus Day parade as an occasion to protest the genocide and slavery associated with that fateful 1492 voyage, wrote, "Columbus may have been less than perfect as a human being, but that is no excuse for denying Italians hundreds of years later the rights of assembly guaranteed under the U.S. and Colorado constitutions." Such ardent defense of the holiday and its festivities may be the most appalling of "freebies" because they have become so ingrained in the American psyche as expressions of national pride, despite meaningful protestations by those whose ancestors knew the real story.
The self-repeating pattern of European conquest of lands and colonization of peoples through the most atrocious of acts — murder, torture, rape and slavery — defines Columbus' legacy. At least, it does for indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere. Others have differing views, like this 1989 gem offered by former President George H.W. Bush: "On Columbus Day, we pause as a nation to honor the skilled and courageous navigator who discovered the Americas and, in so doing, brought to our ancestors the promise of the New World. In honoring Christopher Columbus, we also pay tribute to the generations of brave and bold Americans who, like him, have overcome great odds in order to chart the unknown." It's the same mindset, different Bush.
We are right, and have the right, to challenge this dangerous myth of discovery. In his essay, "An Overview of Indian Populations," from the recently released "American Indian Nations" (2007, AltaMira Press), C. Matthew Snipp examines the political doctrine of terra nullius. Literally "empty land," the doctrine allowed the powers that be to simply take control of lands inhabited by indigenous peoples that appeared to be unoccupied and unused by Indians. It became a primary justification for westward expansion, and continues to be such to this day. "As Europeans came to understand that the land being taken was inhabited by indigenous people, the doctrine evolved," writes Snipp. "This notion of terra nullius and the idea of uncultivated land became very important ... for opening the lands in the West for settlement, because if land is not cultivated by the Indians, it must be there for the taking." Indigenous peoples continue to experience modern interpretations of this doctrine in relation to waters and territories that, because of their rich resources, are deemed more valuable to the United States than to Indians. This is the invented legacy of Columbus that America cherishes.
It is puzzling that Americans express pride in their culture and citizenship through the celebration of an individual who, for millions of others, represents imperialism and genocide. In the sensationalistic media and at the forefront of protests at Columbus Day celebrations, it appears American Indians cannot seem to get over it. It's unjust and insulting to portray a whole people this way. Then again, so is having to suffer this annual indignity.
Once again it's time for the Ayn Rand Institute's annual defense of Columbus and the genocide he initiated.
For my standard response to holocaust deniers like Bowden, see This Ain't No Party: A Columbus Day Rant. In addition, let's look at some of Bowden's specific claims.
>> "Multiculturalism, which rejects the idea that some cultures are superior to others <<
See Multiculturalism Defined for the actual definition of multiculturalism, not this conservative made-up definition.
>> it is possible to demonstrate objectively that one society is superior to another—by the standard of what benefits human life. <<
Wow. A couple of obvious questions:
1) Who says "the standard of what benefits human life" is the standard? How about an alternative: what benefits planetary life, or what benefits the planet?
2) "Benefits human life" by what standard? Economically? Medically? Spiritually? Emotionally? Philosophically? Artistically? Good luck proving "objectively" that humans are better off by any standard except the first two.
>> By this standard, modern industrial society is incomparably superior to the barbaric, tribalistic Stone Age culture of the Indians who predated Columbus.
"Barbaric"? That's funny considering how many people Americans and Europeans killed in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, etc.
"Stone Age"? The most advanced Indian civilizations had metals. And they accomplished many things whether they had metals or not.
>> "Those who attack Columbus Day are attacking the distinctive values of Western civilization that America so proudly embraces—reason, science, individual rights, and capitalism. <<
That's funny considering the Bush administration's assault on reason, science, and individual rights. And the corruption and scandals caused by its unqualified embrace of capitalism.
Indians had rights such as liberty and freedom long before most Europeans did. Indians Gave Us Enlightenment for details.
>> "We need not evade or excuse Columbus's flaws—his religious zealotry, his enslavement and oppression of natives—to recognize that he made history by finding new territory for a civilization that would soon show mankind how to overcome the age-old scourges of slavery, war, and forced religious conversion," Bowden said. <<
That's hilarious since this whole column serves to evade and excuse Columbus's flaws.
How stupid can Bowden get? Let's see:
The territory Columbus found may have been new to him, but it wasn't new to its inhabitants. Other explorers would've found it if he hadn't.
Don't forget that Columbus didn't think the territory was new. He thought he had reached Asia. So we're "celebrating" his foolish mistake.
It sure was nice of America to end the scourge of slavery "soon" after Columbus—only 373 years later. (1865-1492 = 373.)
And the scourge of war...I presume we're fighting the war to end all wars now, even though that was supposed to be World War I, which ended almost a century ago. As soon as we defeat the Iraqis, the Afghans, and the terrorists, we can declare a permanent end to war. I hope it won't take more than another century, since we've already been fighting wars for 515 years since Columbus.
As for forced religious conversion, I'm not sure when that ended, or even if it ended. Ironically, Europeans and Americans were forcing Indians to convert to Christianity for at least 400 years after Columbus. The US still forces people to pledge allegiance to God, to celebrate Christian holidays in schools, to endure Christian slogans on coins and buildings, etc.
So 373 years for slavery, 400+ years for forced religious conversions, and 515+ years for war. I'm so glad Columbus brought us civilization and (practically) showed us how to overcome these things so "soon." I'd hate to think where we'd be if we hadn't overcome them.
Meanwhile, Native cultures practiced a less virulent form of slavery when they practiced it at all. They practiced a less virulent form of warfare when they practiced it at all. And they had few if any forced religious conversions, unlike the European crusades against Muslims and pogroms against Jews.
In short, the Native record is superior to the Euro-American record in all three areas Bowden mentioned. Therefore, what exactly are we celebrating? Oh, yeah...the "objective" superiority of Western civilization. Yes, judging by the number of people killed, enslaved, or converted to Christianity, Western civilization is clearly "superior."
Now we know how stupid Bowden can get. Pretty damn stupid, it seems.
The myth of Western superiority
Hercules vs. Coyote: Native and Euro-American beliefs
America's cultural mindset
. . .
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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.
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