In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. In 2015 he’s thought quite mean — at least by some people. And as a result, a movement to replace his holiday with a politically correct one is picking up steam. As Fox 5 News reports:
More cities are recognizing Native Americans on Columbus Day this year as they revive a movement to change the name of the holiday to celebrate the history and contributions of indigenous cultures around the country.
As the U.S. observes Columbus Day on Monday, it will also be Indigenous Peoples Day in at least nine cities for the first time this year, including Albuquerque; Portland, Oregon; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Olympia, Washington.
... The campaigns say the federal holiday honoring Christopher Columbus — and the parades and pageantry accompanying it — overlook a painful history of colonialism, enslavement, discrimination and land grabs that followed the Italian explorer's 1492 arrival in the Americas.
While the inroads made by the anti-Columbus Day movement are news, the mentality driving it is nothing new. It’s the same thinking that decades ago already led to the chant “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go” and has long instigated the steady denuding of our Western cultural landscape. And while it has a foundation in an emotion-based antipathy for the West, it also reflects moral confusion and intellectual bankruptcy.
Part of the rationale for giving “alternatives” to the Western tradition supposedly equal footing with it, is cultural relativism, or multiculturalism. The idea is that, in accordance with this ism, since all cultures are morally equal, there’s no sound basis for elevating, let’s say, Columbus Day over Indigenous Peoples Day.
But it is this ideology that lacks sound intellectual basis. After all, since different cultures espouse different values, not all cultures can be morally equal unless all values are. This is the error called moral relativism, and it causes multiculturalism to collapse upon itself. For the multiculturalist will say, “Be tolerant of other cultures and give them a place at the table.” But if all values are equal, how can equality be better than inequality or tolerance better than intolerance?
For that matter, how can honoring a culture be better than wiping it out?
Upon realizing that cultural relativism is pap and that not all cultures could possibly be morally equal (without descending into a might-makes-right modus operandi), we can maturely tackle an important question: What should our culture be?
One starts by recognizing that it’s not European history that’s “painful” — it’s man’s history that’s painful. While Columbus’ transgressions have been exaggerated, the reality is that all civilizations were born via dominance of others. The Middle East and North Africa were mostly Christian until Islamic hordes conquered them by the sword; Taiwan was occupied by only Aborigines until the Nationalist Chinese made it their home; Shaka Zulu became legendary by dominating other African tribes; and we no longer hear of European groups such as the Alans, Goths, Frisians, and Marcomanni because they were subsumed by more powerful forces. And, to the point here, North American Indians warred with each other as well. Civilizations have been forged on blood.
So where does this leave us? With the fact that we have a civilization here, now, today, and the only question is: Is it worth preserving? If so, you preserve it. You don’t sit around orchestrating cultural suicide in the name of some kind of supposed karmic justice.
Even more perspective is added by realizing that many of our European ancestors were colonized (and enslaved) — by the Romans. And they assuredly had the same complaints as other colonized peoples: “The invaders are taking our lands, trampling our culture, and imposing their values.” Yet do we now lament it? The Romans brought technology, building roads, aqueducts, amphitheaters, and bathhouses; they spread a superior culture and, ultimately and most significantly, Christianity.
Later in history, those Romanized and Christianized Europeans would spread technology and the faith elsewhere. And when one of them, Hernando Cortés, landed in Mexico, he found an Aztec Empire that sacrificed thousands of innocents a year on bloody altars, ripping their hearts out while they were still alive. He also found at least 100,000 natives who would rally to his side to defeat the Aztecs, desperate as they were to escape the yoke of Aztec rule.
While the North American Indians couldn’t match their southern neighbors’ carnage, there nonetheless was much brutality in their ranks. And while the Europeans who met them were mere men and not angels, the cross was planted and the demonic practices ended.
Should we lament this past? Almost none of us — Indian, white, or otherwise — would return to the morally and technologically primitive ways of our pagan ancestors; we enjoy the fruits of Western civilization. We may, sometimes, explore our supposed roots and dress up in some kind of traditional garb. But this is seldom done with any more understanding than that of wee lads playing cowboys and Indians.
Of course, today we’re not even supposed to use the term “Indians” except to identify people in India. But the term “Native Americans” is a deception. Not only is anyone born in the United States a “native American,” but the Indians present at our nation’s founding didn’t consider themselves any kind of American. This isn’t hard to understand: “America” is not only a European invention but also a European word, originating with Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. As for the colonial-era Indians, they considered themselves Sioux, Cherokee, Navaho, or whatever the case might have been.
This brings us to a striking and ominous reality: If our nation’s founding was so misbegotten and European colonial endeavors so discreditable — if the thesis casting aside Columbus Day is valid — then nothing “American” can be left unscathed. The Constitution, the English we speak, “American” culture and standards and even the name itself should be scrapped. After all, what’s a greater reminder of “Western imperialism”? One day a year bearing the name of a European explorer?
Or one nation bearing the name of a European explorer every day of the year?
This is the logical conclusion of the anti-Columbus Day movement, which is really just an anti-American movement. It explains why everything viewed as Western/American, from Christianity to Western historical figures and holidays to peanut-butter sandwiches, is today under attack. And it explains why at Saturday’s “Million Man March” (which attracted thousands, not millions) an unidentified American Indian woman led a chant of “Down, down USA!”
She can perhaps be commended for her honesty and ideological thoroughness, but she’s also the typical revolutionary who knows more about burning than building. What would replace a USA brought down? It wouldn’t then be dominated by headdress-wearing Indians riding horses (which themselves were brought by the Europeans) and hunting buffalo; it wouldn’t even be ruled by tribal elders. It might be a neo-Marxist totalitarian tyranny, a hodge-podge of competing fiefdoms, or the newest province in the Chinese Empire. But it would not be “Indian” in any sense, or anything Sitting Bull would have stood for.
One complaint against Columbus Day and so, so many other things, is that they reflect a Western perspective. But everything is a matter of perspective. If something is located 25⁰ N, 37⁰ W, we could ask, relative to what? The only relevant question is whether our perspective aligns with the Truth or a lie. And the truth is that we’re supposed to have a Western perspective because we’re a Western civilization — and that we should thank God, and some dead white males, that we are.
Photo: AP Images