Sunday, October 11, 2015

Happy Columbus Day, Part 2

Despite all of the things I wrote about in the previous entry, conservatives insist that we honor Christopher Columbus.

I started to go to the Conservapedia website to learn their view about Columbus, but Web of Trust (WOT) displayed a red circle and announced that this website was untrustworthy and dangerous for child safety. I had to specifically give my browser permission to continue going there. I felt a tingling of danger, as if I was sneaking a peek at pornography.

I can see why Conservapedia (the right-wing twisted-logic imitation of Wikipedia) would be considered untrustworthy. But why would Conservapedia be considered a dangerous website for children?

One of the things that conservatives hate the most is what they call revisionist history. They hate it when modern scholars tell us to rethink our assumptions about Christopher Columbus being a great hero of Christianity; or the same assumption about the Pilgrims; or to reject our cherished myth about How the West Was Won by heroic whites shooting dirty Native Americans.

Conservatives want to cling to the 1950’s-western-movie version of history, and to the assumption that God established the United States of America as his holy white land. It is easy to understand that it is dangerous to raise kids to think these things. If cowboys who shot Indians were heroes, then maybe, the kids might think, it is just fine to do the same thing today. For why else do their conservative parents keep caches of arms and ammo? Perhaps, then, Conservapedia, which enables (even though it does not expressly promote) a white supremacist version of history, is dangerous to kids for the same reason that jihadist sites are. I don’t know; jihadist sites appear to be blocked on my browser, so I don’t know whether they would show up with red circles or not. I can find only news sites and anti-jihad (including moderate Muslim anti-jihad) sites.

And now, continuing with Columbus. I was googling to find out what conservatives actually say about Columbus. I expected all of them to praise Columbus as the man who brought the light of Christianity to heathen Natives who deserved to be enslaved. And some conservative writers come pretty close to this (see below). However, most of the conservative sites I found openly admit the evil things that Columbus did. This included the Conservapedia entry, which provided a harrowing list of the evil things that Columbus did. As a matter of fact, this entry mentioned some things that the progressive historians sometimes do not, such as how Columbus’ men would skewer the Natives on pikes. The author conveniently omitted the part about cutting off hands, but was otherwise quite honest about Columbus’ brutality. I am glad that I checked up on what conservatives actually say rather than just lashing out at what I thought they said. I wish they would be so careful in criticizing progressives.

However, by means of mental contortion, conservatives have figured out a way to ignore the evil things that Columbus did, right after admitting them. Here is how Conservapedia and another conservative website (The American Conservative) did it.

  • First, Conservapedia claims that the main person to accuse Columbus of crimes against humanity was Ward Churchill, a professor who lost his job because of “academic dishonesty.” By claiming that Churchill was a bad man, they imply, though they do not say, that all accusations against Columbus are unreliable. We progressives do not base our opposition to Columbus upon Ward Churchill.
  • Second, right after they admit that the 500 Taino captives that Columbus sent back to the slave markets of Seville were the first instance of an American slave trade, Conservapedia hastens to point out that more Natives died of European diseases than died of slavery. I guess that, since slavery was not the number one cause of death, then it can be safely ignored. Imagine applying this argument to current events today. “Diabetes kills more people than ISIS, therefore ISIS isn’t so bad” is a 21st-century equivalent to “diseases killed more Natives than did slavery, therefore slavery wasn’t so bad.” I must note that Conservapedia did not say that slavery wasn’t so bad, but they clearly used disease as a way of minimizing the horror of slavery.
  • Third, Conservapedia claimed that since the critics of Columbus had not adequately defined genocide, then this word cannot be used to describe the actions of Columbus. However, this contradicts what is written earlier in the entry, which says that within a space of 60 years a Native population of over a million on Hispaniola was totally wiped out. (I don’t know where they got these figures, but notice that they are even worse than the table of numbers I reported previously.) Only a rabid conservative would question whether or not this constituted genocide.
  • Fourth, a writer for The American Conservative noted that all groups of people have had a brutal history. He proceeded to mention other acts of brutality in human history. Of course, this does not mean that we should admire Columbus. If conservatives revered a day to celebrate the Wounded Knee massacre, I would oppose it just as I do Columbus Day. I don’t think Cambodians should celebrate Pol Pot Day, if there is one. And so on. This conservative argument is only a diversion.

It is by such mental contortions that many conservatives deflect attention away from the evil things Columbus did, evils they will admit, and get their readers and admirers to turn against scholars and teachers who want to teach the truth about Columbus. I can only wonder how many home school conservatives teach their kids that Columbus was God’s humble servant.

Some conservatives, however, go much further in trying to sanitize and sanctify Columbus. Kenyn Cureton, vice president of the Family Research Council, says of Columbus, “He did do some things that weren’t right but his motives overall were, number one, to get gold to free Jerusalem but secondly to share the Gospel.” Think about that for a moment. That makes Columbus, overall, a force for good in history, right? Columbus didn’t want the gold for himself but to finance another crusade. And, Cureton continues, Columbus “was very much motivated by his Christian faith, and I think that is what is behind this effort to wipe his name out from history.” So you see, everybody, the only reason I would ever criticize Columbus, according to this particular conservative group, is because I hate Jesus. If I really really really loved Jesus, I would rejoice in what Columbus did. Please oh please somebody confirm that you don’t have to love Columbus in order to be a Christian.

The conclusion I reach is that nobody, anywhere, should celebrate Columbus Day. It should not, of course, be forgotten. October 12, 1492 should not be forgotten any more than September 1, 1939, the beginning of the Nazi blitzkrieg.

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