Columbus Day Wars

Queen Ysabel loved dreamers. She wouldn’t sponsor quacks, but as long as the dreamer had a chance to succeed, she wanted to dream with him. Thus, when in 1487 a Genoese navigator named Cristóbal Colón approached her looking for finance for a western passage to Asia, she was intrigued.

She put him off for five years—the war against the Emirate of Granada took precedent—but finally went against the advice of her councilors and financed his dream. The Genoese navigator, now dubbed Admiral of the Ocean Sea, went West looking for Asia and found a New World.

The Columbus Wars

Barring a very unforeseen event, such as the sudden arrival of SMOD, tomorrow will mark the 525th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. As long as I remember—ever since I was a boy in Communist Cuba, come to think of it—the first two weeks in October is the time where leftist columnists rail against Western imperialism, capitalism, and crossing the Atlantic Ocean in two caravels and a cog.

The anti-Columbus campaign was started by the Soviet Union as part of its Third World influence operations, but Western intellectuals adopted it as its own. So now every October we get to read about the evils of Imperialism, colonialism, slavery, and ‘genocide’, whatever that last one means. Columbus Day has become an excuse for Western bashing.

Historical Ignorance, a-Historical Dishonesty

The campaign relies on breathtaking historical dishonesty. Promoters of the anti-Columbus story line present ‘facts’ without historical or human context. For example, the deaths from disease are called genocide, when the European conquerors (and later settlers) did not understand how infectious disease propagated! Furthermore, the massive loss of Indian life was a blow to the conquerors’ ambitions. They wanted the Indians alive and healthy—so they could exploit them. You cannot become the ruling class of a conquered society when everyone below your rank dies.

Similarly, the accusation of systemic racism is wide off the mark. From reading the documents left behind by the conquerors, I can report that they were indeed racist—against African blacks. But they saw themselves in a rough racial equality with the Indians they conquered, reporting that they were ‘a fine race’, ‘very pleasing to see’, ‘peaceful and polite’, though sadly lacking much of a sense of humor. (I notice in passing that a good sense of humor is often in conflict with politeness). The Admiral himself sang the praises of the Indians to the Queen, mentioning that, once converted, they would make a fine addition to the peoples of her realm. But all these readily available facts—I got them from mainstream historical books and electronic copies of documents—do not fit the preconceived narrative of the anti-Columbus iconoclasts.

As for Columbus himself, he was a great navigator, a poor leader, with many faults great and small. I’ll be happy to discuss the man, since he’s fascinating, but the Columbus wars are not really about him. When iconoclasts attack his memory, or indeed his statues, they are attacking our whole civilization with half-truths and lies; and those calumnies should not stand.

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