Monday, October 9, 2017

Columbus--Restoring after the Revisionists

There were certain historical stories told when I was growing up, many decades ago, that gave us heroes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Christopher Columbus. Yes, Columbus was one of those. And we had a day to celebrate his story. This was before holidays all got shifted to Mondays, so mostly they were school days, and we learned about that person on their day—and maybe for the week or two of surrounding days.

Christopher Columbus, screenshot from
The History Channel; I found it here.

Then, in my adulthood, there’s been this movement to disillusion us about these heroes. And others. We could add Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. And probably others.

But what I’m learning is that the disillusionment is based on fake “facts.” There wasn’t really a cabal of historians for centuries secretly hiding facts in order to sanitize and glorify the heroes. While human, with the sensibilities of their times, our American heroes were really extraordinarily good men who accomplished great things for mankind.

I don’t know why the lies are there. It seems perverse to tear down, with lies, someone we should admire and honor—someone who isn’t here to defend himself or set the record straight. It seems related, in most cases, to hating America. I’m not certain whether this weird hero destruction goes on in other countries as it does here.

But why would it be considered a “good” thing to hate your country, and the iconic figures who helped make it? That seems cynical, pseudo-intellectual, and just plain ugly.

Dinesh D’Souza has done a good job debunking some of this anti-American fake history, with America—Imagine a World without Her and other books and documentaries. I’ve also turned to a series of history books by various authors: The Real Benjamin Franklin, and The Real Thomas Jeffersonfor example.

Today is Columbus Day. I’ve written about Columbus a couple of times (here and here). I believe the real historical record is in his favor.

This past weekend I heard the best debunking of the Columbus maligning I’ve heard in some time. This was Michael Knowles, in his Daily Wire podcast on Friday. You can get the audio here, or you can see it, with some extra visuals, by scrolling down to last Friday on his Facebook page.

Later I found much of that 20-minute segment written as an article by Knowles. There’s extra humor in the podcast, and I recommend that. But for now I’d like to share a few of his points. This first is an example of what we truth seekers are up against.

The typical mainstream media anti-Columbus hit piece goes as follows: cite a well- known passage from the Admiral’s diary out of context, juxtapose it next to the testimony of his chief political rivals, and pretend that all of this information has only recently been uncovered.
Vox’s Dylan Matthews follows this strategy with his outlet’s typical sobriety in his 2015 article, “9 reasons Christopher Columbus was a murderer, tyrant, and scoundrel.” Perhaps the worst charge Matthews alleges is that “Settlers under Columbus sold 9- and 10-year-old girls into sexual slavery.” Matthews asserts, “This one he admitted himself in a letter to Doña Juana de la Torre, a friend of the Spanish queen: ‘There are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand, and for all ages a good price must be paid.’”
One might conclude from Vox’s article that Columbus devised the plan or at least approved of it. But the opposite is true. Columbus doesn’t brag about selling those girls into slavery or even defend the action. On the contrary, in the very next sentence, Columbus writes, “I assert that the violence of the calumny of turbulent persons has injured me more than my services have profited me; which is a bad example for the present and for the future. I take my oath that a number of men have gone to the Indies who did not deserve water in the sight of God and of the world.”
There are attacks that quote Columbus’s contemporary rivals, who maligned him at the time, and he spent energy refuting. Knowles makes this comparison:

The report’s author is none other than Francisco Bobadilla, Christopher Columbus’s chief political rival and the man who successfully usurped power from him in the West Indies. A modern analog would be to say that a document written by Walter Mondale proves Ronald Reagan was a terrible president.
Columbus’s behavior, as testified by those who knew him and saw how he acted, debunked those accusations then, and they should not be picked up as pseudo-fact again in our day. Among the accusations are ways the natives were treated.

Columbus spent years of his life refuting the document as a vicious libel and turned down as a matter of principle lucrative agreements with the Spanish crown that did not correct for history what he regarded as calumny. This is not to say that Columbus is guiltless in the Spanish treatment of natives. But the Left’s claims of Columbus’s special monstrosity are without foundation. Even Bartolomé de Las Casas, the first resident Bishop of the Americas and most vociferous defender of the indigenous islanders against Spanish slavery and brutality admired Christopher Columbus to the end and expressed as much in his History of the Indies.
Stanford professor emerita Carol Delaney marvels at the ignorance. “They are blaming Columbus for the things he didn’t do,” she explains. “It was mostly the people who came after, the settlers. I just think he’s been terribly maligned.” Delaney points out that in the man’s own writings and the writings of those who knew him, Columbus seems to be “very much on the side of the Indians” and even adopted the son of an American Indian leader he had befriended.
Columbus was devout, which may irk modern-day cynics. He believed he was led by God, and reports several miraculous details that led him forward fortuitously. And he believed he was sharing both Christianity and civilization with poor people who lacked these sources of happiness. He was respectful and gentle with the natives.

Columbus land in the New World
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
I found it here.

Possibly he was not a strong enough leader as a colonial island governor—for which there was no precedent—although he managed to overcome multiple mutinies through sheer force of will during the original voyage. But he was not a tyrant. In a letter to the Spanish crown, his Lettera Rarissima, he wrote these self-defending words:

“Let those who are fond of blaming and finding fault, while they sit safely at home, ask, ‘Why did you not do thus and so?’ I wish they were on this voyage; I well believe that another voyage of a different kind awaits them, or our faith is naught.”
I like Knowles’s accusation against the ungrateful and ignorant, who are willing to believe any word against an American hero, but fail to consider the documentation we’ve had for centuries:

The modern left-wing revisionist sits comfortably in the freest, most prosperous, most charitable country in the history of the world and from a position of wholly unmerited luxury slanders the man who made it all possible.
A few days ago I suggested asking the question, sincerely, “What makes you think that?” That’s a good question to ask about Columbus. If you think he was an evil tyrant who ruined the entire “New World,” what makes you think that? What are your sources? Why do you believe those sources instead of more positive, historical records?

And, if you weren’t being taught to believe that America is evil, would you think that solely from your own experience and evidence?

As for me, I flew my American flag today, in celebration of Christopher Columbus and his intrepid voyage that led to the eventual founding of America.

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