Separating the fact, fiction of Christopher Columbus



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Separating the fact, fiction of Christopher Columbus

October 19, 2002|By GREGORY KANE (From the Baltimore Sun)

A WORD OF thanks is due to the Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA), which published a brochure called Columbus: Fact vs. Fiction just in time for the celebration of the holiday named for the Italian explorer, which took place Monday.

Reviewing our grade school history, we're reminded that Christopher Columbus is the guy credited with discovering America, sailing on the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria in 1492 from Europe to the West Indies. For years, he was revered as a bold explorer who helped alter the course of history.

Today, he's another dead white guy the American left has pilloried for the crime of being, well, a dead white guy whose sins include racism, genocide and slavery. Even other Italian-Americans have jumped on the anti-Columbus bandwagon. Read this comment from The Sopranos cast member Joe Pantoliano, an obtuse sort of fellow who simply couldn't understand why other Italian-Americans didn't want him at New York City's Columbus Day parade:

"I don't know about this Christopher Columbus parade that is basically celebrating some guy who ... found America and then killed all the Indians," Pantoliano is quoted in the Oct. 21 edition of Newsweek magazine.

It's not surprising that someone willing to star on a show that brazenly stereotypes Italian-Americans might be so disconnected with Italian and American history. But the folks at OSIA must have anticipated Pantoliano's snacking on a shoe sandwich. Columbus: Fact vs. Fiction explores the "Indian killing" charge and several other misguided notions about Columbus.

Calling the notion that Columbus committed genocide "fiction," the brochure points out that most Native Americans were killed by the Spanish explorers who followed Columbus. Far more Native Americans died of European diseases from which they had no immunity.

OSIA debunks other charges that Columbus was a racist and involved in the slave trade. It seldom gets said in the dead-white-guy bashing, but the Europeans who colonized the Americas, Africa and parts of Asia did nothing non-European people hadn't been doing for centuries. If they did it better, it was because of a superior technology.

The way to combat superior technology is to develop a superior technology of your own. Asians seem to have caught on to that fact. Africans and their Afro-American cousins, for the most part, have not.

The brochure is available on OSIA's website at www.osia.org.
A Defense of Christopher Columbus By Patrick J. Ford of “The Northern Agrarian”

October 13, 2008, 1:08 pm


Filed under: Culture, History

As students of the George Washington University and many other schools around the country trudge off to class on this national holiday, there will be little, if any, discussion on the holiday being ignored. If there is any conversation, it will surely be to ensure that people understand why it should be ignored. Some even think ignorance should be replaced by activism against the holiday’s supposedly deplorable source.

If you don’t already know, today is Columbus Day. Although Christopher Columbus was heralded as a hero for hundreds of years after his voyage, modern multiculturalists have torn his name to shreds. Although the District of Columbia, Columbia University, Columbus, Ohio, Columbia, South Carolina, etc… are named after the man, these stand as nothing more than bloody reminders of the West’s imperialistic past to some. Indeed, in many ways the heritage of the western world’s exploration of the New World is irrevocably tied to Columbus and his journey.

And the story of Columbus is not without its historical falsities. For example, no serious thinkers at the time of Columbus’ departure believed the world to be flat. The most obvious misconception is that Columbus did not discover America, but the Americas, which were not even named so until after his death. The Vikings were on our continent long before Columbus set sail. But there have been other disputes as well. Some claim he was a “genocidal maniac” who’s main legacy is wanton slaughter. Others see him as a religious fanatic with mass conversion in mind (as if that would make him a fanatic).

But the Christopher Columbus critic is a med-school specimen of insane multiculturalism, riven with the pathologies particular to that world-view. It triggers every multiculturalist cliché, from “White Man vs Dark Man” to “Christianity vs. Rich Indigenous Culture” to “Rich Imperialist vs. Poor Localist.” They also claim he brought slavery to the New World. This radical revisionism demands evaluation.

William J. Connell, a historian at Seton Hall University, has studied Columbus extensively and was featured in a New York Times article on the subject in 2000. Connell claims that, despite the shortcomings of Columbus’ actual landing spots, it is without doubt that Columbus brought glory to exploring the New World, and his popular voyage was seen as opening the proverbial floodgates to western exploration. His arrival marks ”where we as a country and as a hemisphere began our identity,” said Mr. Connell. ”It’s a question of the contact that matters. There wasn’t a significant or important tradition that survived from the voyages of the Vikings.”

As for claims that Columbus brought slavery to the New World, they are radically mistaken. It is now believed that slavery existed amongst the tribes of the western hemisphere for centuries prior to the arrival of Columbus. In fact, Columbus’ views of slavery were rather benign and average for the time. Whereas many held slavery as a product of racial prejudice, Columbus’ concept of slavery was rooted in the Aristotelian concept that ”if a person is captured in war, they’re legitimately a slave,” Connell explains. ”There was nothing racial about it.”

The Times article then addresses the claims of genocide:

Moreover, widely spread accounts that Columbus’s followers wiped out the Taino people of the Caribbean were inaccurate, says Jorge Estevez, himself of Taino lineage, who is a program coordinator at the National Museum of the American Indian in Manhattan. Mr. Estevez says that although many natives were murdered, fell victim to European diseases, or were taken captive, others intermingled with the Spanish settlers. And the settlers who were given Tainos as slaves were required to pay taxes on them, resulting in the undercounting of the Tainos as a form of tax evasion and leading to reports of their eradication.

In fact, most of the “devastation” caused by Columbus was accidental, caused primarily by the unintentional exposure of disease to natives.

These inaccurate criticisms are rooted primarily in Columbus’ status as a western and Catholic hero. His mission of conversion, though seen as deplorable by irreligious people, was without a doubt a mission of love undertaken with the salvation of of a backward people in mind. Are we to believe that the indigenous faiths of the Americas, such as the Aztecs, were better and more peaceful than Christianity? If we are to teach children of the evils of Columbus’ conversion mission, shouldn’t we explain to them that in one day 20,000 Aztec slaves were slaughtered in a religious sacrifice?

We as a society have gone back and drawn a Snidley Whiplash mustache on Columbus’ luckless countenance. Formerly a hero, he is now a villain. As usual, the truth is somewhere in between the two. But if we as a society are to chose between Che Guevara and Christopher Columbus, the choice is easy. As Mr. Connell says, “‘Celebrate’ is a word we could use for Columbus’s genius, his persistence against the odds in getting people who were much more powerful than he was to back him in a risky enterprise that had results way beyond anyone’s imagination. We can celebrate his enterprise and ingenuity. A more appropriate word for what happened would be ‘commemorate.’ ”



I’ll commemorate the brave actions of Christopher Columbus. Will you?


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