Columbus Day needs to go, but…

I deplore Columbus Day. It it a state-sponsored celebration of state-sponsored genocide. I argue that it needs to be abolished because Columbus was a bad man with bad motives.

However, there are a number of talking points, put forth by the Left, that are simply wrong and need to be debunked before we can have an honest discussion about why Columbus was such a bad guy.

The conquests of New Spain and Brazil undertaken by Spain and Portugal were state-sponsored, while the slow, eventual westward push by other European peoples were only indirectly sponsored by states (through corporate charters and the like) until the mid-nineteenth century (a time frame of over four centuries). This state sponsorship can largely explain why Latin America is the red-headed stepchild of the West today.

I don’t buy the argument, put forth by Politically Correct Leftists, that the genocide of Native Americans was perpetrated solely by white men and their cunning and guile. This counter-narrative is just as dishonest as the traditional narrative proclaiming Columbus to be a great discoverer. It takes away the agency and the complexity of Native societies with one fell, condescending swoop.

As an example, consider yesterday’s (American) football game between the Cardinals and the Redskins in Phoenix. The owner of the Redskins, under fire for keeping the name ‘Redskins’, invited the current, democratically-elected President of the Navajo nation to watch the game with him and his family. The President and his wife obliged, and wore Redskins gear to accentuate their support for the Redskins owner.

The couple did this while hundreds of anti-Redskins protesters stood outside the stadium with signs and slogans. Native fans brandished signs inside the stadium declaring their support for the Redskins name.

Many appointed Native leaders simply sold their people out to Europeans. Many more thought assimilation between their culture and the Europeans’ would be the better option going forward. Many Native factions actively slaughtered other factions for money, land, or other goods and services.

I often wonder if traditionalists don’t see what Leftists are doing when they deliberately display such a proud ignorance of historical facts. It’s as if traditionalists relish the role of bad guy in society when they play into the dishonest hands of Leftist so-called reformers.

At any rate, here is economist Bryan Caplan on Columbus Day, and here is philosopher Irfan Khawaja. Both are worth reading. Both are libertarian, to one degree or another, and both pieces move well beyond the usual garbage that passes for debate in this country.

10 thoughts on “Columbus Day needs to go, but…

  1. You are always unhappy, always blaming everything on the evil left. I agree about Columbus, he even saw North or South America. Maybe call it Viking Day. However Seattle has changed it to Native American Day, which is not a bad thing. Just a note pard, you keep hollering wolf all the time and people will tend to tune you out. I am guilty of that as well. One more tiny tidbit, you should have gone after me earlier about what was really bothering you, such as your previous (Restore) post and my comment. I let it go, and I am letting you go. I will not bother you in the future, so have a blast bitching everything in sight, I have better things to do.

  2. I encourage you to do what my family and I do on Columbus Day: celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving!

  3. Thanks for the shout-out, Brandon. I do agree with what you say in the fourth paragraph about the Left’s version of events. I don’t specialize in this particular swatch of history, but from what I have read, the underlying problem is that historians either tend not to think very clearly about property rights, don’t care about property rights, or have no worked-out conception of property rights to rely on–while writing about events that are, among other things, the expression of long-standing disputes about property. (The same thing is true of the historiographical literature on Israel and Palestine, by the way.)

    Right-wing writers tend to write as though but for Columbus, we’d all still be living as hunter-gatherers. But left-wing writers act as though it was self-evident that Native Americans had property title to, and sovereignty over, every square inch of both North and South America. On this view, any non-Native entry onto either continent qualifies as a rights-violation or invasion. Ironically, the left’s version of events amounts to a mindless anti-immigrant narrative, which the (harder, ethnically-oriented) left likes to disavow in the case contemporary debates about immigration.

  4. Too quick to endorse the claim of genocide. It happened but it was the exception. The stupendous drop in native populations after contact with Europeans was due almost entirely to disease. Every European reaching the Americas was a descendant of survivors of multiple plagues and of endemic small-pox. None of the natives was. After a period of immunization sensitivation (lasting several centuries, just like in Europe), the native populations rebounded. I believe there are more Navajos than there we ever were. There are also many more Mexicans, who are mostly of Indian ancestry or of ancestry that is mostly Indian.

    I think one has to be careful to note how one’s adversary sets the table before one sits down to eat.

    By the way, the Aztecs were cannibals. They ate their neighbor. That’s why that idiot Cortex conquered their hundreds of thousands so easily. Neighbors were eager to help, no kidding!

    • I always forget the part about Native populations rebounding and actually increasing, probably because the losses Natives accrued in other areas (like territory, or the fact that whole nations perished) are so great.

      Nevertheless, it is a great point. What good, after all, would the New World be with only Natives living in it?

      A journalist by the name of Charles C Mann wrote two pop-science books about the narrative Jacques brings up here: 1491 and 1493. Both are excellent and easy to read, but if you want something a bit more drier I recommend historian Matthew Restall’s Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest.

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