Dissenting from the Annual 15 Minute Hate Against Columbus

Dissenting from the Annual 15 Minute Hate Against Columbus October 14, 2015

So the other day, the blogosphere and FB were full of the annual ritual denunciation of Horrible Christopher Columbus. Yeah, he was an awful man in a lot of ways. Duly noted.

Still and all, I think our annual 15 Minute Hate on Columbus is mostly posturing by a people compensating for all the crap we inflict on the weak. Look! I’m Socially Aware! I Hate Columbus. Give me my wine and cheese.

Here’s the deal: The real reason for Columbus Day is that 19th Century America took a step *forward* from its mindless nativism toward the huge tide of immigrants from southeast Europe, especially Italians. (Look up Sacco and Vanzetti and the panic surrounding them, or pay attention to the rise of the KKK–whose high-water mark was the mid-20s, not 1870s–if you want to get a sense of the “foreign terrorists are among us and will kill us all!!!! mentality that was all the buzz among mouthbreathers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries). The fear and hatred directed at Italians just a little over a century ago was exactly like the bigotry directed at Latino and, soon, Syrian refugees today.

And yet, despite this temptation to give in to this ugly bigotry, American society, in a remarkably generous and Christian spirit, rejected this and, instead, tried to figure out a way to welcome the huge tide of immigrants.

Solution: find somebody in our history who could represent them. Not a lot of Italians in 1776, nor battling Lee at Gettysburg, so they looked back further, found Columbus, and suddenly grafted him on to our National Story. Italians went from being despised minorities to being welcomed as Americans. That’s why the day exists and I don’t begrudge it.

Not to say that we still have barely begun to grapple with our legacy of genocide and ethnic cleansing inflicted against Native peoples. We’re still embroiled in trying to come to terms with our legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and have mostly back-burnered things like the Trail of Tears and Wounded Knee (to cite but two incidents out of a history so shameful that we cannot bring ourselves to look at it).

But Columbus-hating is cheap and easy. Properly understood, the day represents a step forward in the American genius for taking diverse peoples and making them into a nation. It’s not about Columbus.  It’s about Italians.  It’s about Fiorello LaGuardia, Joe DiMaggio, Patti LuPone, Sylvester Stallone.  It’s about millions of Americans today to whom it would never occur to regard Italian-Americans as anything other than wonderful members of the American legacy.  It is one of the many evidences that America is, as Chesterton noted, a nation with the soul of a church, founded on a creed rather than on ethnicity.

We still have far to go including others in the circle of Common Good that the American experiment aims to promote, as the figure of Columbus and the ghastly treatment of Native Americans he recalls makes clear–and as the struggle against abortion makes clear as well.  But let us not imagine we can climb higher by kicking down the ladder by which we have come thus far.  The progressive habit of thinking we can make the world better for our children by murdering the memory of our grandparents is folly.  Our ancestors did well to welcome the immigrant according to their best lights.  Let us praise them for that and do better, not curse them for that while doing nothing ourselves but posturing.

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  • [Properly understood, the day represents a step forward in the American genius for taking diverse peoples and making them into a nation]

    As this article explains, properly understood Columbus day represents an imagined history whitewashed and reappropriated for feel good emotions. Simply put, its a noble lie.

    Look I’m not gonna argue about the historical benefit of the day, but we can agree that the original intent is now dated, we don’t need an Italian figure to graft patriotism onto to escape anti-Italian sentiments. Columbus was not a good guy and any original meaning of the day you bring up is long lost and has aged very poorly.

    I also dislike the cheap and easy remark. Maybe it’s easy because its so obvious that the way Columbus treated natives makes him wholly not worth celebrating. As Christians we shouldn’t need to lean on or defend largely whitewashed exaggerated and mythologized character in order to find role models.

    • chezami

      So. Go ahead and murder the grandparents. Got it.

      • excuse me? Did I mention murdering anyone? Are not getting a holiday and being murdered the same thing now? Please, I’m trying to engage you in adult discussion. I have been rude on this blog before and for that I apologize.

        I disagree with your assessment and thought I politely explained why. There is no need to resort to strawmen.

        Everyone is a mixed bag, but what is celebrated about columbus is not some moral acheivement in spite of personal failings (like any of the founding fathers or MLK). It is celebrating the rather neutral fact that he sailed somewhere, and then burying the facts about what he did when he got there and changing his reason for going ($$) into some vague moral victory (cult of America!).

        There are very few historical characters who get their own US holiday, and I personally think one is wasted on Columbus, it has aged poorly, it’s somewhat offensive, it promotes a dishonest view of history in the name of patriotism, and it could easily be supplanted with a more reasonable character.

        If you disagree, fair enough, but please don’t attack me with absurd strawmen. Finally, if my grandfather was a divisive and questionable historical figure, then no, I would not be happy to have him get his own National Holidy.

        • Yeah, anybody could have put together an expedition and sailed across the Atlantic in the late 15th century. It surely didn’t require vision, patience, ambition, courage, or any other notable quality. The voyages are just a “rather neutral” fact, and it’s kind of bizarre to celebrate them…it’s almost as if we’re celebrating someone for riding the bus across town. Ho hum.

          • [ It surely didn’t require vision, patience, ambition, courage, or any other notable quality. ]

            Yeah, so did the final solution.. Yes I’m Godwinning for hyperbolic effect. Columbus was not Hitler.

            The point I’m making is that doing something big or difficult is not automatically morally positive. Having vision or ambition are not automatically good things. Sailing across the world *is* morally neutral no matter how hard it is. What makes it not morally neutral is the reason for doing it.

            If you and I hiked the same treacherous trail through the mountains and you it to save someone and I did it for funsies, the moral quality of each of our journeys is not measured by what qualities were required in executing the trip without considering the reason for the trip.

            • chezami

              How Nixonian of you. Columbus was like Hitler! Now I’m not saying Columbus was like Hitler or anything… Thanks for having that adult conversation…

              • I didn’t say Columbus was like Hilter. I expressly stated that. There was no comparison going on between Hitler and Columbus. What I did is called reducto ad absurdem. I was demonstrating that the attributes described by BG ( vision, patience, ambition, courage) don’t necessarily make an endeavor virtuous. The Hilter reference was a refutation of the GP’s proposal of what elevates an endeavor beyond morally neutral. It had simply nothing to do with Columbus except the incidental fact that it is the topic of the larger conversation we were having

                I know people’s eyes glaze over at the mere sight of Hitler to the point that they are no longer able to engage with a point being made. I though Godwinning myself would help mitigate that, but I guess not.

                • chezami

                  Sorry, man. You don’t get to do the Nixonian thing of invoking the Final Solution and then denying you were saying Columbus was like Hitler. Own your words.

                  • Can you really not see what I said? I said that a feat requiring vision, patience, ambition, courage don’t necessarily make it morally good. My previous post stated EXPLICITLY that this very feat was morally neutral. If I am comparing anything to Hilter, then I must be saying that the FS was neutral?

                    Just because I used the hitler in the same post as Columbus to demonstrate my disagreement (with admitted hyperbole) with a tangental idea, doesn’t automatically mean I compared columbus to hitler

                    Can a 3rd party weigh in on this?

                    • Linebyline

                      It was clear enough to me. I’m going to attempt formal logic, despite not knowing the proper notation, so bear with me.

                      Blog Goliard’s argument:
                      Proposition 1: Act X requires quality Q.
                      Proposition 2: Quality Q is virtuous.
                      Implied: If the act requires a virtuous quality, it is virtuous.
                      Conclusion: Act X is virtuous.

                      IprayIam’s counterargument:
                      Proposition 1: Act Y is known to be very, very not virtuous.
                      Proposition 2: Act Y is also dependent on quality Q.
                      Conclusion: Quality Q does not necessarily cause acts (such as X) to be virtuous.

                      (Either Goliard’s proposition 2 is false, as IprayIam says, and the listed qualities are not virtuous, or else the implied connection between virtuous qualities and the virtuousness of the act is not guaranteed to exist.)

                      Also, Zac Alstin made some good points about Godwin’s Law: http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/is_it_time_to_euthanase_those_nazi_arguments

                    • LFM

                      I agree that Mark appears to have misunderstood you. You did not compare Columbus to Hitler and having used their names in the same comment does not indicate that you have done so. That said, I think “Godwin’s Law” (a term I begin to find almost as tiresome as the invocation of the Nazis that prompted its coinage) does suggest that ANY comment mentioning Hitler in whatever context should force the commenter to acknowledge defeat. Seems silly but there you are.

                      Am suffering insomnia at 3:15 a.m. as I write this so cannot vouch for my own coherence here.

                    • Mike Petrik

                      It’s great fun reading a reasonable guy who is wrong trying to argue with an unreasonable guy who is right.

                    • wait which am I? More importantly which should I want to be? 🙂

            • “The point I’m making is that doing something big or difficult is not automatically morally positive.”

              I think that’s a fair point…and one that I’ve used myself. For instance, in our culture we over-valorize “hard work”, treating it as an unalloyed good no matter what that work is trying to accomplish…no matter what other goods it’s displacing…no matter whether it’s at all actually necessary.

              I generally avoid reaching for “the SS worked pretty damn hard too I think” response to it because people are guaranteed to react badly, even if it’s clearly labelled as hyperbole. (And that’s certainly been the case here. I do think Mark is being a bit obtuse here.)

            • Alma Peregrina

              “… Godwinning…”

              I loved this verb!

              • Mike Petrik

                Yeah, being the contrarian I’m in favor of Godwinning.

          • Alma Peregrina

            “Yeah, anybody could have put together an expedition and sailed across the Atlantic in the late 15th century. It surely didn’t require vision, patience, ambition, courage, or any other notable quality.

            Actually, that expedition was doomed to fail, since the reason for Columbus trying to reach the Indias from the West was because he, against the most accurate previsions of his day, wrongly assumed the diameter of the Earth was shorter than it was.

            Had an unknown continent like “America” not exist, he would be remembered just like a madman that sailed into the Atlantic never to return…

            • Dante Alighieri

              Well, yes, and that’s just the thing that a lot of people don’t realize. And I was waiting for someone to bring this up. Thank you. Columbus “discovered” the Americas not because he was brilliant but because he was too downright stubborn and blind, clinging to his personal reconstruction of world geography cobbled from the classical age when even his contemporaries all knew the (round) world was bigger than he thought. If America hadn’t existed, he would have starved at sea with his crew – just like all the other sane people thought he would. That he bumped into the Americas was just dumb luck. And he was slick salesman. He tried to get the Pope to fund his voyage by promising a conversion of the East, renewed crusades and the taking of Jerusalem to herald the conversion of the Diaspora Jews and the Last Judgment.

              Bring on Bartolome de las Casas Day!

        • chezami

          Metaphorical language seems to be hard for you. “Murdering the grandparents” means “judging them by your most unmerciful contemporary standards instead of charitably by their own”. It is a habit of teenagers who, for instance, complain incessantly that stoopid people in the past didn’t just invent cell phones and be normal people like we are.

          Here’s the deal: American admiration for Columbus began in the 18th century before the Revolutionary War, because American were focused on our relationship with our past, not on native peoples. Columbus was seen as an adventurer who broke away from the ossified Old World–and as emblematic of the courage it took to start a new nation. You may not like it that peoples have myths, but they do nonetheless. And no nation exempt from that. As far as it goes, it was not a bad myth to have and inspired a lot of good.

          The feminine Columbia was taken from him, and adopted as an affectionate name for the American colonies and the young United States in the same way Ireland is called Hibernia. We now commonly speak of Lady Liberty (from the Statue of Liberty), but before then it was Lady Columbia or Miss Columbia (kind of like Uncle Sam, but prettier).

          We see the effect of this admiration in various place names, including the naming of our capital, District of Columbia. You can dismiss all this as “whitewashing”. But for our ancestors it was seen as an attempt to find a way to welcome refugees who were treated with all the malice that moderns are now heaping on Latinos and Syrian refugees.

          • Andre B

            Metaphorical language seems to be hard for you. “Murdering the grandparents” means “judging them by your most unmerciful contemporary standards instead of charitably by their own”.

            Columbus’ contemporaries judged him unfit to govern in the New World, upon hearing of his brutality. It’s not especially revisionist to criticize him for this.

            • chezami

              We’re talking about 19th Century Americans who were trying to welcome Italians, not 15th Century contemporaries of Columbus.

              • Andre B

                Leaving aside that it wasn’t clear who you were talking about, I’m not sure why it’s unmerciful to criticizing the choice of 19th Century Americans to use Columbus as a heroic figure. If 15th Century Italians [edit:] and/or Spanish knew better, why not 19th Century Americans?

            • “Columbus’ contemporaries judged him unfit to govern in the New World, upon hearing of his brutality.”

              Really? I always understood that he was displaced by people who wanted to be more brutal.

            • So far as I know, nobody ever honors Columbus for his 7 year governorship (which does seem to be a complete failure), just like they don’t honor Jefferson for his slaveholding and Galileo for his theory of comets. It was the voyage and the discovery of the New World that we all honor. Why should we not?

              • Andre B

                So far as I know, nobody ever honors Columbus for his 7 year governorship

                I’ll respond to your anecdote by saying this has not been my experience. Throughout my youth, including both religious and public schools, I’ve been exposed to many defenses of Columbus’ actions after his arrival, many of which try to paint him either as only being concerned with exploration, or as a fervent evangelizer who was for the most part simply trying to civilize natives.

                It was [1] the voyage and [2] the discovery of the New World that we all honor.

                [1] Plenty of difficult voyages made throughout the years, now that we seem to have (re)learned a bit more about the dark side of Columbus’ voyage, perhaps we can find a more worthy figure.

                [2] If ‘discovery’ of the New World (by a European) is all we care about: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leif_Erikson

                • I’ll grant you that your teachers shouldn’t have tried to defend the indefensible if you’ll grant me that Columbus’ governorship does not take away from his discovery of the Americas.

                  But from your follow on para, it’s pretty clear that this proposal is unlikely to generate a favorable response.

                  • Andre B

                    I’ll grant you that your teachers shouldn’t have tried to defend the indefensible

                    FWIW, it wasn’t just teachers back when I was in school, there’s plenty of ongoing attempts – including in this combox (not by you) – to whitewash, rationalize, or diminish what was done.

                    if you’ll grant me that Columbus’ governorship does not take away from his discovery of the Americas.

                    You’re right, this is a stumbling block for me.

                    To be clear, I’m not (at least I don’t think I am) on any special crusade to demonize those who instituted this holiday – and the OP shed some light on a noble idea behind the holiday that I was unaware of.

                    I quite prefer that we try to correct the record when possible; whether it means exposing ugly truths or dialing back exaggerated claims. My suspicion is that some of what we would now view as atrocities attributed to Columbus by his harshest critics will fall into the latter category, but I still see plenty of resistance the former going on – and it is this I object to.

                    To go back to your point, I’m not sure how to separate his actions after discovering the New World from the discovery itself. I dunno, maybe I’m just bitter because we I don’t get that day off 🙂

                    PS. Earlier you had brought up Jefferson and his owning of slaves, but iirc, despite owning many himself, he supported efforts to put an end to the practice. So, Jefferson – in some small sense – seems to be an example of somebody who rose above the customs of his time and place, whereas we seem to see Columbus’ actions shock even his contemporaries. Not only that, but I think that it’s important to talk about these ‘sins of the (founding) fathers’. It helps us remember they were just men, and that their words and ideas were not as sacred as we may have been led to believe.

                    Edit: “I” for “we”.

                    • I would suggest this approach as a good stab at a healthy middle ground:

                      http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/50009.html

                    • Andre B

                      TML,

                      I’ve already spilled a lot of e-ink, so I’ll try to keep my response to your article brief.

                      Columbus certainly treated the people of Hispaniola who fell under his authority abusivley and cruelly. In that regard, he was typical of his day and age.

                      On the one hand, they do us the courtesy of acknowledging his brutality. On the other, they immediately dismiss it as par for the course in those days. I’ve already pointed out we have reason to believe he was worse than average.

                      What was atypical about Columbus was his ingenious insight about the Atlantic wind patterns, and his superhuman drive to cross the Ocean Sea and arrive, as he incorrectly believed, in the Far East.

                      This gives me hope that someday, as long as I find a great bar after being lost for hours, I will also be hailed as a hero.

                      Yet, even as the chroniclers of Nuremberg were correcting their proofs from Koberger’s press, a Spanish caravel named Nina scudded before a winter gale into Lisbon with news of a discovery that was to give old Europe another chance. In a few years we find the mental picture completely changed.

                      Nothing like the promise of gold and conquest to help Europe get its mojo back!

                      This [currently fashionable bigotry (towards Columbus)] is primarily an effect of the Calvinist Puritan roots of American progressivism.

                      I suppose empathy has nothing to do with it.

                      Rest is mostly about how important opening the New World up to Europe was.

                      I mean, if the point was that the discovery of the New World was super important to Europe, and later the rest of the world, no argument. I’m not sure what else this piece does to establish a healthy middle ground, especially given how dismissive it was of Columbus’ treatement of other human beings.

                    • No, empathy has little to do with the indictment of Columbus as it’s generally laid out in ahistorical terms. The natives with their various civilizations are hardly more than cardboard cutouts in the discussion.

                      You seem to be ceding the point that the discovery of the New World turned around a global situation where Islam was on the road to ultimate victory. That, in itself, is enough to justify the holiday.

                    • Andre B

                      No, empathy has little to do with the indictment of Columbus as it’s generally laid out in ahistorical terms. The natives with their various civilizations are hardly more than cardboard cutouts in the discussion.

                      As somebody that cares deeply for cardboard cutouts, I don’t have the same problem empathizing as you do.

                      You seem to be ceding the point that the discovery of the New World turned around a global situation where Islam was on the road to ultimate victory. That, in itself, is enough to justify the holiday.

                      Yeah, that’s exactly right. Took the words right out of my mouth. Couldn’t have said it better myself. The point you say I am ceding is precisely what I was. This might seem like sarcasm.

                    • Ok, you’ve now succeeded in confusing me.

                    • Mike Petrik

                      TM, for some people there is no middle ground. All people are cartoons. Like Godwin.

                    • Andre B
                    • Mike Petrik

                      Thanks for that, Andre! 🙂

                    • Linebyline

                      As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of an xkcd reference approaches 1.

                    • [My suspicion is that some of what we would now view as atrocities attributed to Columbus by his harshest critics will fall into the latter category, but I still see plenty of resistance the former going on – and it is this I object to.]

                      I suspect that if Columbus was taken slightly out of the spotlight and we removed C-Day, then people on both sides wouldn’t have a need to politicize him so much and history classes would begin giving him fair and measured consideration.

                      [I’m not (at least I don’t think I am) on any special crusade to demonize those who instituted this holiday]

                      Nor am I. But Mark makes it clear that the creation of the holiday was politically motivated, not historically, so if we are upset that he has been so politicized by the anti-Columbus Day side, who is to blame for that? Who politicized him first? Instead of hurling vitriol, let’s sit down and correct the trajectory and depoliticize this guy by not elevating him to Fed Holiday status nor demonizing him to scourge of the earth.

                  • [if you’ll grant me that Columbus’ governorship does not take away from his discovery of the Americas.]

                    Few people want to take away from the credit that C deserves in his voyages. I’ve never heard of someone asking that we re-name the Columbian exchange.

                    [I’ll grant you that your teachers shouldn’t have tried to defend the indefensible]
                    It is the first part people take offense with, and right or wrong Columbus Day is seen as the visible product of that cultural defense. Two other people in all of American History have a Fed Holiday named after them

                    That Columbus get this prestige is seen by many as the elevation of the mythos of Columbus, the whitewashing, and contributes to the need to defend him in history class year after year. We reject the idea that saying “wait a second, this guy doesn’t need his own holiday” is taking away from honoring his voyages. On the contrary allowing him a top 3 spot like that necessitates defending the indefensible every time it comes up.

                    • That’s probably the best anti-holiday piece I’ve seen in years. I don’t think it’s ultimately persuasive but a tip of my hat to a well done opposing point.

                      The reason I don’t find it persuasive is that Columbus is almost unique in discovering a continent during the time when history could record it. Captain Cook’s discovery of Australia is the only competing event but Australia prefers to commemorate the arrival of its first prison ships for Australia day. I don’t know which of us is weirder for the level of honor done the discoverer of their respective continent.

              • Linebyline

                Because he did it by accident, and because it had already been discovered a few times before, perhaps?

                That sad, you make a good point: Just as we can’t excuse the evil that people have done just because they also did some good, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate the good even when people have also done evil.

                • Actually the reason it’s reasonable to honor Columbus and not Lief Erickson or the Chinese discoverers of the California coast because unlike the others, Columbus’ discovery had persistent consequences that changed the long-term course of history of the world. So accidental or not, preceded by others or not, it’s Columbus that counts. The rest are footnotes.

                  • Linebyline

                    Fair enough, if you replace “discovery” with “colonizing” (if only for the sake of pedantry, which is a hobby of mine).

                    Just because Columbus gets (in my estimation) more credit than he deserves doesn’t mean he deserves none.

                    • I was going to make a pedantry joke in response but then I realized I might not get it exactly right.

                      Proof: I had to edit the above to add exactly.

                    • Linebyline

                      I usually don’t get it right either. Muphry is rarely kind to me. 😉

              • Joseph

                Or Andrew Jackson on his Indian hunts in Florida.

              • I don’t think we should not.

                However we don’t recognize Galileo Day or Jefferson Day as Federal Holidays. You can honor Columbus’s achievement without a fed holiday. I agree that those who want to throw the baggage of every injustice ever committed against Native Americans onto Columbus’s shoulders and associate C- Day accordingly are overreacting and plain wrong.

                Mark goes to great length in this article to explain the cultural significance of C-Day and the historical context and positive motives and effects for its creation. He makes the case quite well.

                Many of us think, however, that all those reasons are quite dated and inapplicable today or at least that Columbus’s mythos has not aged well and his name is poor fit to hang the celebration of immigration on. Some are offended by the elevated status of Columbus to his own Federal Holiday, and whether they are right or wrong for their offense, I think it’s easy to see that C-Day is divisive and doesn’t serve the good it may have at one time.

                I personally take slightly further issue with the idea of slapping a mythos onto a person for the sake of celebrating a predetermined idea. As this article points out, Columbus was kind of the best fit for the predetermined idea to celebrate, not the other way around. I think that is historically disingenuous.

                Finally, Columbus’s motives were at the very least, largely for profit which (IMHO) make him a tad different and less heroic than those who fought for science (Galileo), liberty (Jefferson), or civil rights (MLK). Reasonable minds can disagree on this last point.

                • Columbus Day is not recognized by all the states and Alabama tacks on Jefferson’s birthday to their celebration of Washington’s birthday.

                  My observation is that the bulk of the opponents of Columbus are going after him as part of a larger project of disconnecting us from our past, a project that I find creepy and dangerous. In my son’s middle school graduation from a small private school, all the students made a speech. My son was the only one that made any mention of the past. Everybody else was all about now and the future. There was no thread of historical continuity.

                  I don’t think much about Columbus, but I do recognize it as a tie that binds us all in the Americas and that is something worth preserving. How to preserve it properly is, to me, less interesting.

                  • Andre B

                    My observation is that the bulk of the opponents of Columbus are going after him as part of a larger project of disconnecting us from our past, a project that I find creepy and dangerous.

                    Odd, I view a full accounting of Columbus’ actions as more fully connecting ourselves with the past. What other attempts at disconnecting the past do you see people engaging in?

                    • The entire literati class seems intent on making every period piece of fiction a story of proto-moderns looking to figure out how to be modern. The figures of the past are just “dead white men” who aren’t worth keeping in the curriculum because of their racism/sexism whatever.

                    • Andre B

                      You know, I’ve taken a vow of abstinence when it comes to online discussion with folks that toss around phrases like “literati class” and “proto-moderns”.

                      Ta.

                  • I said federal holiday bro

          • [“Murdering the grandparents” means “judging them by your most unmerciful contemporary standards instead of charitably by their own”]

            I have never heard that expression. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

            But, you’re still attacking a strawman. Asking that we rethink designating an entire a Federal Holiday to a divisive and questionable historical figure is not the same as “judging them by your most unmerciful contemporary standards instead of charitably by their own”.

            Furthermore, designating a holiday to him is *asking* for him to re-evaluated every year. Elevating him to a place of historical heroism for our own pro-immigration purposes is explicitly judging him by contemporary standards. Finally, moral standards transcend time.

            • chezami

              I just coined it and used it in the piece I wrote. Go back and re-read it.

              • I admitted that just because I didn’t recognize it doesn’t mean it’s not a valid metaphor.

    • Terry Morgan

      IprayIam – Columbus as a man was completely worthy of being emulated. The “crimes” against him do not stand the test of rigorous research. If a lie is told often enough people will believe it. The lies against who Columbus as a man was and what “he” accomplished are attempts by some to denigrate Western Civilization and it’s accomplishments.

      That said, Columbus’ genius and being raised as a national hero came long before the wave of immigrants as reported in the article “The Origins and Traditions of Columbus Day” which states in part: “In the years following the American Revolution, Columbia, the feminine counterpart to Christopher Columbus, emerged as yet another icon for the young republic. As the first Lady Liberty, Columbia was dressed in classical robes and a liberty cap, often decorated with the stars and stripes of America. King’s College in New York changed its name to Columbia College in 1784 — for the purpose of showing “the glorification of America” — and South Carolina made its capital city “Columbia” just a few years later. “Hail Columbia” served as our nation’s unofficial anthem until “The Star-Spangled Banner” became official in 1931. Columbus was a popular subject for American poetry, appearing in Philip Freneau’s 1774 The Pictures of Columbus, Joel Barlow’s 1787 The Vision of Columbus, and Phillis Wheatley’s 1775 “To His Excellency George Washington.” And, of course, in 1791, the Territory of Columbia — later known as the District of Columbia — was designated as the seat of federal government. By 1792, there was a movement to officially name the country Columbia.”

      • chezami

        Please. Columbus was a nasty piece of work. You don’t deal with the charge of whitewashing by more whitewashing.

        • Michaelus

          Just because he was a Franciscan (tertiary) does not mean he was a bad person…….

        • Terry Morgan

          Unfortunately it isn’t whitewashing of Columbus the man that is being done. He doesn’t need that. It is the lies and slander that blacken his name. Sadly, many don’t care to learn the truth.

      • Michaelus

        Just noticed yesterday that one of the very first US Navy ships (1775) was named “Columbus”.

  • This brief interview came across my Facebook feed this week, and I may just have to track down this scholar’s book. Sounds like she likes Columbus quite a bit…and may have been rather surprised to come to that opinion. I certainly get less of a whiff of special pleading and chronological moral relativism from her than from many other Columbus defenders.

    http://www.kofc.org/en/columbia/detail/2012_06_columbus_interview.html

    I really don’t know that I have a good feel for what Columbus was like as a man…and I’m pretty sure most other folks online don’t either. They’re just fed secondhand Howard Zinn–who was less a historian than a prosecutor–via some breezy infographic from “The Oatmeal” or similar, and bam! they just know in their bones that Columbus was Worse Than Hitler.

    The remedy for whitewashing isn’t to relentlessly interpret the words and deeds of our ancestors in the worst possible light, and then revel in our moral superiority.

    • [The remedy for whitewashing isn’t to relentlessly interpret the words and deeds of our ancestors in the worst possible light, and then revel in our moral superiority.]

      False dichotomy. There is somewhere in between retaining a US holiday that is dated and controversial and interpreting everyone in the worst light. It’s kind of ironic that the purpose of C-day was unity and national pride and today it is a source of division.

      [I really don’t know that I have a good feel for what Columbus was like as a man]

      If so few of us have a good feel for what kind of person he was, I think that lends support to the idea that Columbus day is not a great choice in today’s era for a federal holiday. Feel free to disagree, that’s all I’ll say on the subject and sure, I could be wrong.

      • chezami

        “False dichotomy” says the guy who just compared Columbus to Hitler. Sheesh.

        • Um I stated it was hyperbole and Godwinned myself in the post. It’s call arguing ad absurdem.

          Also my hyperbole had nothing to do with a dichotomy.

          • chezami

            Can’t have your cake and eat it. You compared him to Hitler and then imagined that immediately denying you did so somehow makes the comparison go away. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

            • Also my hyperbole had nothing to do with a dichotomy. You did not address that point.

              I did not compare Columbus to Hitler.I applied the same attributes the GP used to elevate the voyage above morally neutral to the FS to show that those attributes are do not necessarily make something a worthy cause. I apparently did that very well too because you have decided to deride my rhetoric and cry Godwin rather than engage in the point I’m making

              Even if you’re right, you’re still engaging in the fallacy fallacy.

      • Either you misunderstood my post, or you misunderstand what a false dichotomy is.

        There is indeed somewhere between the two poles…and, far from denying that and presenting a false choice, I thought I was calling for more of us to explore that territory. (Maybe I should have stated that more explicitly.)

        Which is an urgent need. I don’t know about you, but around 90% of what I ran across this week online fell strongly into either the whitewashing or demonizing categories.

        • Ah, I suppose I did misunderstand your post. My apologies.

          [I don’t know about you, but around 90% of what I ran across this week online fell into either the whitewashing or demonizing categories.]

          My personal perspective was that the whitewashing side spend a great deal of effort trying to discredit all the “let’s rethink this with nuance” people by painting them as demonizing, while relatively few people were out actually demonizing.

          But of course my perspective may be scewed, and I’m not really on FB. I agree that it’s an urgent need. If an explicitly patriotic holiday causes so much disunity, we should try to fix the problem.

  • wlinden

    I annually look on in bemusement at Pale Pink People denouncing the event which enabled their presence in this hemisphere. If they don’t like it here, why don’t they go back where they came from?

    • Aurelian

      Because they won the war HERE. The native americans lost. That simple.

      • wlinden

        They should have had stricter immigration laws.

        • Captain_America

          So — the PC crowd is feeling guilty for THEIR ancestors having won?

    • Mariana Baca

      You can dislike *how* an event took place without disliking the general nature and outcome of the event. Just like people can oppose the actions at Dresden and Hiroshima without wishing the Allies lost the war.

      Columbus was imprisoned in his own time for things he did: opposing his actions while still being happy about the discovery is not something 21st century people made up.

      • wlinden

        You mean all the denunciations by the PC Police would go away if we were celebrating Vespucci Day or Cortereal Day?

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    Can’t we just change it to Frank Sinatra Day? Or if that offends someone, how about Ray Romano Day? Surely Ray Romano isn’t offensive to anyone.

  • Mariana Baca

    I guess my beef with “Columbus day” is only the enshrined belief that “Columbus proved the Earth wasn’t flat” or some other nonsense to show how the culture of the middle ages was stupid and backwards and anti-science (and by extension the religious and catholic culture at the time) while the newer culture was smarter, more educated. It goes to the “one man contra mundi” vision people have of that era, similar to how people treat Gallileo or Bruno and the like. If it were something like “Day of the Americas” or something, I’d like it more. Or, as it is in Brasil, Happy Lady of Aparecida Day!

    • Joseph

      My son told me that very same thing on the way to soccer practice. I had to correct him and tell him that the sciences had already dispelled the idea that the world was flat long before Christopher Columbus was even conceived.
      .
      I can’t believe they’re still teaching that nonsense in schools… or, if it’s not in the textbooks, teachers are still propagating it.

      • Dave G

        He did? Apart from Bugs Bunny I can’t remember hearing that for ages. When I do it’s always to correct it.

  • So we aren’t supposed to honor the ballsy fast talker who managed to psychologically turn around the West from pessimism as it was being squeezed to death by Islam to a sense of optimism and possibility that turned the whole civilization group around.

    Why?

    You shouldn’t have to be a saint to get a secular holiday.

    • Alma Peregrina

      “You shouldn’t have to be a saint to get a secular holiday.”

      As true as this is, that sentence makes me sad.

  • Elmwood

    my favorite italian american is frank zappa. much rather have zappa day than columbus day.

    not sure why they have to have these ethnic holidays anyways, who cares, i doubt italians really care that much about columbus. italians, like every other catholic ethinic group have much more pride about their patron saints like st. francis, st. joesph or st. anthony of padua. if the usa was serious about creating an ethinic italian holiday, it would be the feast of a famous saint.

  • maddoxhightower

    Two facts:

    Colombus’ canonization cause was stalled because of his treatment of Indians (Columbus’ defenders, as late as Fr. John Hardon, was certain that Columbus secretly married his domestic partner whom he had a son with. That thinking reminds me of my parents calling Messi’s domestic parter his wife even though they aren’t married. Anyways, I believe he still repented of that sin, as his will shows). Whether or not not celebrating Columbus Day is anti-Italian is missing the point.

    Bartolome de las Casas, who criticized Colombus’ treatment of the Indians, is still a Servant of God, even though it is currently in the Diocese of Seville’s backburner. Santo Subito!

    • anna lisa

      I’d be totally down with a Bartolome de las Casas day too.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    Eh, I don’t really care if the holiday is retained or remaindered. But I am opposed to efforts to remake it ‘Indigenous People’s Day. It’s a paternalistic sop. Abide by the treaties, until then, this is an insulting gesture.

    • It probably would help if there were a treaty wiki to lay out which agreements were still active. Is there such a beast?

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        Still active as in not superseded by a later treaty, or not unilaterally abrogated by the US?

        • Unilateral abrogation that wasn’t later covered by a subsequent agreement would be still active. There are all sorts of dead issues that are resurrected decades, even centuries later when convenient. If a later agreement settled the issue then it wouldn’t be active in my opinion.

  • Joseph

    Agree with you, Mark. FB is great for a lot of things. I love having instant contact with my family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. But, yeah, like the rainbow coloured avatar movement and the annual ‘Bash Columbus’ day, or the constant barrage of “atheists are more smarterer than Christians – here’s a link to a web site to prove it” posts that are contradicted by “if you don’t share this, you don’t love Jesus” posts. Then, of course, the politically driven posts (as if any political debate can take place on FB).
    .
    It’s all social posturing and self congratulations… it’s weird like that. I know the personalities of my friends who post things like that, so nothing really surprises me.

  • Re_Actor

    … 19th Century America took a step *forward* from its mindless nativism toward the huge tide of immigrants from southeast Europe, especially Italians. (Look up Sacco and Vanzetti and the panic surrounding them, or pay attention to the rise of the KKK–whose high-water mark was the mid-20s, not 1870s–if you want to get a sense of the “foreign terrorists are among us and will kill us all!!!! mentality that was all the buzz among mouthbreathers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries). The fear and hatred directed at Italians just a little over a century ago was exactly like the bigotry directed at Latino and, soon, Syrian refugees today. And yet, despite this temptation to give in to this ugly bigotry, American society, in a remarkably generous and Christian spirit, rejected this and, instead, tried to figure out a way to welcome the huge tide of immigrants.

    Judging from that cartoon, this “nativism” was in large part a Protestant establishment’s alarm at the prospect of increased Roman Catholic influence in America. Can you blame them? Perhaps that “ugly bigotry” should be seen in the light of Archbishop of New York John Hughes’ words of 1850:

    “Everybody should know that we have for our mission to convert the world, including the inhabitants of the United States, the people of the cities, and the people of the country, the officers of the Navy and the Marines, commanders of the Army, the Legislatures, the Senate, the Cabinet, the President, and all! We have received from God what Protestantism never received — not only a commission but a command to go and teach all nations. There is no secret about this. The object we hope to accomplish in time is to convert all pagan nations, and all Protestant nations.”

    Why wouldn’t a WASP establishment fear that? More importantly, why shouldn’t they? If those fears failed to materialise, if “the Catholic Church in America became the American Catholic Church”, defanged and domesticated and allowed into the establishment club, is that cause to celebrate? There is such a thing as killing with kindness.

    Of course we’re so beyond Archbishop Hughes’ triumphalism nowadays — we’re all the way up to Archbishop Cupich.