Monday, October 8, 2012

Great essay on Columbus Day

From Charles Cooke:

... “they” did not all laugh “at Christopher Columbus when he said the world was round” — primarily because they already knew that. As Stephen Jay Gould has observed, “there never was a period of ‘flat earth darkness’ among scholars.” They had accepted the spherical theory from the time of Socrates, and it had reigned without interruption ever since. Insinuations to the contrary, still pervasive in the public imagination, derive first from 17th-century Protestant attempts to paint Catholics as backwards, and then from the 19th-century atheist movement, which picked up the falsehood and propagated it to demonstrate the supposed benightedness of the religious...
A peculiar but popular view holds that, until the brutish Europeans came and violated its innocence in the name of profit, American Indian culture was the last vestige of Man before the Fall. This notion replaces history with fantasy. As the European crime was not to invent but to buy into a slave trade that had afflicted Africa for almost a millennium, Columbus’s was to mirror the practices of tribal warfare and slavery that were already rife among the natives. He did not impose barbarism on the American continent, but he did fail in many instances to show the better example that many in Europe were in the process of setting. This is enough to disqualify him from being regarded as a great reformer, but it does not disqualify him from being a great explorer. Quite obviously, it is only the latter to which his champions lay claim.
Happy Columbus Day!

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