This place matters

This place matters

Monday, October 10, 2011

Indigenous Peoples Day?

It is Columbus day once again, the day when Americans gather across the country to either laud or vilify the man, and accuse those who disagree with them of being terrible Americans. 
Last year, in this post, I wrote about how Columbus himself glibly announced what great slaves the people of the new world would make; how he and the Europeans who came along with him committed horrible atrocities against the native Americans, atrocities he and his contemporaries document in their own journals. 
This year, I tried to get the other take by reading stuff that Columbus supporters have to say. The problem with that, of course, is that the Internet is full of giant idiots. If there are pro-Columbus folks out there with intelligent, well-reasoned defenses for the man, they're far overshadowed by the shrieking flag-wavers that fill the blogosphere. 
I did find this article from that claims
Columbus should be honored, for in so doing, we honor Western civilization. But the critics do not want to bestow such honor, because their real goal is to denigrate the values of Western civilization and to glorify the primitivism, mysticism, and collectivism embodied in the tribal cultures of American Indians... We should, they claim, replace our reverence for Western civilization with multi-culturalism, which regards all cultures as morally equal. In fact, they aren't. Some cultures are better than others: a free society is better than slavery; reason is better than brute force as a way to deal with other men; productivity is better than stagnation.
It's interesting that author Michael S. Berliner mentions slavery in his argument, in that enslaving the the native peoples of the New World is one of Columbus' most direct accomplishments. 
But peering past his racist assertion that all Native Americans were primitive, violent, and brutish, he does almost kind of have a point. There's a certain subset of liberals who do think that Native American culture was better than our own, that Native Americans were just a peace-loving people in touch with the planet and the universe. That sweeping generalization is a little bit racist too. Native Americans were people. Some were in touch with the earth, some, however, intentionally burned down huge chunks of forest to make for easier hunting. Some had lovely spiritual traditions and worshiped Mother Earth, some practiced human sacrifice. Some tribes were peaceful, others forever at war. Some Native Americans were enslaved when Westerners came to the New World, some Native Americans brutally enslaved other Native Americans long before Columbus and his men showed up. 
And there's this trend among some academic liberals to claim that Native Americans honored women more than Westerners, to characterize Native Americans as having been largely matriarchal. That claim isn't really true. Some tribes were matriarchies, but only a handful, as far as I know. 
I guess where I'm going with this is that Columbus and his men may have done horrible things, but it's not like every Native American in the New World was running around with a dream catcher revering the earth and honoring women. 
However, Berliner, in making a somewhat valid point, sneakily sidesteps the central question when it comes to honoring Columbus: was Columbus a hero? The facts are these: Columbus did not originate the idea that the world was round - most educated people at the time knew that. So we can toss that out of the equation. Columbus wasn't a champion for Christ; Christ would have been sickened by the atrocities committed by Columbus and his men. 
Columbus, was, however, a very skilled navigator. Columbus was very brave to attempt what he attempted. Columbus was a great man in his time. 
But a hero that schoolchildren should be indoctrinated into believing was God's gift to the Americas? Not in my opinion. Still, you look too hard at any of your heroes, and you're bound to start seeing things you don't want to see.
Except Mr. Rogers. 100% hero.
I just want to point out that every other picture
I took in Key West is of a stupid chicken.
I had about ten shots of this amazing tree, and then
a hundred of the rooster I discovered a few
feet away.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What do you think of the whole Amerigo Vespucci dispute, or for that matter, Leif Erikson?