Saint or Scoundrel?
By: Jonathan Harris
Public Hate Speech
Many years ago, as I was on an evangelism trip at a local mall with a group of friends and church leaders, I noticed a t-shirt hanging in the window of a “New-Age” shop with this inscription: “Homeland Security: Fighting Terrorism Since 1492.” Above the writing was pasted a picture of a mounted group of Plain’s Indians from the late-1800s. In reaction to this display of historical and etymological stupidity, I muttered under my breath, “That’s inaccurate.” The next thing I knew one of the group leaders was chiding me for denying what he deemed to be historically irrefutable; and like a parrot he spewed the old slander against Americans of European descent: “The white man has done horrible things to the Indians. You ought to start reading some books!” When I asked him what research he had done he referenced movies (which often take artistic license) and “common knowledge” (faulty appeal to the majority). While there’s nothing innately wrong with believing “common knowledge,” it certainly shouldn’t be because of the nature of it being “common,” but rather because it’s actually authenticated by something true. Columbus said the world was flat, his culture said it was round. The majority has been wrong before, and I think in this case we are half-wrong. Yes, Europeans have done bad things to Native Americans, but you’ll find that for every finger a multiculturalist wants to point at “White Christians” they have three fingers pointing back. Europeans didn’t introduce slavery to the New World. The natives already had it! Neither did Europeans introduce theft. The indigenous tribes were masters at subjugating enemy tribes and stealing their land. Does anyone seriously want to go back to the times of ripping out a fellow human’s heart to appease a sun god? My point is not that all Europeans are superior in moral character. My point is that mankind is sinful. All cultures have blood on their heads, and it’s extremely hypocritical to bash the exceptionally evil in one culture- even to the point of recreating their culture’s heroes such as Columbus- while ignoring the evil in their own. Let’s take a look at Christopher Columbus, and Western Culture in general, not to prove that it’s “perfect” or “sinless,” but to show why it is superior to the pagan cultures that dominated the American Continents before 1492.
First a small comment on the t-shirt for clarification. My main problems with the shirt are NOT that it implies that “white” people had done bad things to Native Americans, but rather that it proposes three blatantly INACCURATE statements or implications that paint the supposed evil of European people and innocence of Native Americans with a broad, hateful, and utterly fallacious brush. Here are the three inaccurate statements/implications:
1. Christopher Columbus was a terrorist (i.e. because the Native Americans have been fighting since “1492”).
2. The idea of a European “terrorist” is used in synonymy with Islamic terrorists (i.e. “Homeland Security” being the organization which pursues Islamic terrorists. I saw the shirt a year or two after 9-11).
3. The equating of Plain’s Native Americans from the late-19th century with Islanders from the late 15th century (i.e. the implication that Natives across North and South America regardless of time-frame, tribal identity, or European national influence have a “unified” front against all Europeans).
One does wonder, would similar statements made about Nat Turner or Crazy Horse be tolerated? Or would they be deemed “Hate Speech?”
Was Christopher Columbus a terrorist? Absolutely not! There is far more evidence to equate Columbus with Homeland Security than there is to suggest that the Native Americans across the board were anti-terrorist groups. Even a slight reading into the life of Columbus will show that he came to the new world for three things:
Columbus was deeply inspired by the adventures of Marco Polo. All Europeans knew trade with the Far East was treacherous. If a European wanted silk, he or she would have to finance a trip around either the horn of Africa, or a voyage through Islamic lands. Remember, the Crusades were still going on at this point and Catholic/Islamic relations were hostile. Columbus wanted to make wealth for the church by trading with the Far East, and thereby finance a final crusade to once and for all end Islamic terrorism. Sadly, we’re still reaping the consequences of this shortcoming. Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. points this out in a speech entitled Christopher Columbus the Catholic:
What is not commonly known is that the growing power of the followers of Mohammed had closed the normal pathway from Europe to the Orient. In God’s providence, this is what occasioned the search for another way to the Indies. Most historians claim that this was the dominant motive for Columbus going west so that the wealth of the East might be found. The Book of Prophecies [Written by Columbus] shows the opposite. Commercial interests were certainly prominent in the minds of others. But Columbus had deeper spiritual interests at heart. It was surely part of God’s mysterious design that Columbus should have planted the true faith in the New World at the same time that Islam was overrunning Africa, the Near East, and was being driven out of Southern Europe.
Columbus was also hoping to convert the Far East to Christianity through evangelism, and thereby gain allies by which to resist the Islamic jihad. In a letter to Pope Alexander VI he said, “I trust that by God’s help, I may spread the Holy Name and Gospel of Jesus Christ as widely as possible.” (While I haven’t studied enough to know whether Columbus was a true follower of Christ, I do know that evangelical historian David Barton has mentioned before that he believes Christopher Columbus was in fact equivalent to an evangelical.) When Columbus first set foot in the West Indies, he actually thought he had made it to the Far East as evidenced by the fact that some people still call Native Americans “Indians.” The question is, why would Columbus steal from and subjugate people he wanted to trade and alliance with? The answer is, “he didn’t!” Despite what Hollywood actors and actresses would have you believe, as evidenced by this year’s “Reconsider Columbus Day Campaign,” the ugly truth is, the great explorer never participated in the actions of the conquistadors. Tommy De Seno sheds some light on this in his article The Truth About Christopher Columbus. De Seno introduces us to the source of all the confusion named Francisco de Bobadilla who lied about Columbus in order to gain his job as governor of Hispaniola.
In 1500 the King and Queen sent him to North America to investigate claims that Columbus wasn’t being fair to the European settlers (which means Columbus was protecting the Indians). So de Bobedilla came here, and in just a few short days did his investigation (with no telephones or motorized vehicles to help him), and promptly arrested Columbus and his brothers for Indian mistreatment and sent them back to Spain, sans a trial. Oh and, he also appointed himself governor. Coup de coeur for power lead to coup d’ etat, as usual.
It was two years before Columbus was able to be reinstated as governor again. Regarding the allegations made against Columbus in reference to the slave trade De Seno writes:
One of his boats crashed in Haiti. He had no room for 39 men, so he started a colony there. . . Columbus came back a year later to find that the Taino Indians killed all of them and left them where they fell. Columbus went to war with the Tainos and took 500 of them as prisoners of war, not slaves. They were released after the war.
If Columbus wasn’t guilty of slavery or Indian mistreatment, surely he must have at least been a land grabber right? Aren’t all Europeans. Once again, syndicated blogger Alexander Marriott asks the question:
What was there to steal? The land was not in use, evidenced by the pathetic level of any kind of progress, intellectual or material, on the part of nearly all Indian tribes despite thousands of years in lands of great plenty and separated from the other people of the world who could have potentially meddled with them.
Michael Berliner, writing for Capitalist magazine makes the statement, “Prior to 1492, what is now the United States was sparsely inhabited, unused, and undeveloped.” I assume this would equally apply to the West Indies.
So what is the legacy of Christopher Columbus? In a letter to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella contained in the Book on Prophecies authored by the man himself in 1502, Columbus makes this assertion:
At this time I have seen and put in study to look into all the Scriptures …which our Lord opened to my understanding – I could sense His hand upon me – so that it became clear to me that it was feasible to navigate from here to the Indies, and He gave me the will to execute the idea …I have already said that for the execution of the enterprise of the Indies, neither reason nor mathematics, nor world maps were profitable to me: rather the prophecy of Isaiah was completely fulfilled. And this is what I wish to report here for the consideration of your Highnesses (Book of Prophecies, Folos 4, 4 rvs., 5 rvs).
Columbus was a man of virtue- a “hero” if you will. With noble goals and faith in God he sailed the uncharted ocean depths discovering what today we call “home,” and opening the possibility for Western Civilization to make inroads in a new continent.
I’d like to shortly cut through the chase. We all know that all the The Enemies of Christopher Columbus as author Thomas A. Bowden calls them, don’t really hate Columbus as much as they do Western Civilization. He just represents Western Culture to them. In their minds, multiculturalism is key. They believe that every civilization is equal. Bowden explains:
In our age of multiculturalism and politically correct attitudes, it is considered bad manners and even wrong to claim any superiority for Western civilization and its achievements. . . But if we take an objective look at the standards of men’s lives, then Western civilization is superior in very visible ways.
What ways you may ask? Science, technology, industry, capitalism, chivalry, etiquette, fine arts, law, high morals, etc. all came from the West, not because Europeans are racially superior in anyway, but because they were shaped by Biblical assumptions (after the Reformation especially). Compare this to the way the Aztec’s lived.
The Aztec religion sprang from a compulsive instinct to attract those natural forces which were beneficial to man and repel those which were malign. . . The Aztecs felt under a compelling duty to offer human sacrifices to these gods. . . Tearing out the hearts of living victims by black-robed, long-haired, chanting priests was a relatively merciful death compared to being scourged or eaten alive. The killings were on a large scale and would reach thousands on a single day, as failure to influence the gods became a frenzy of slaughter. Among other historic sources, we have record of what happened at the inauguration, in 1487, of the temple of Huitzilopochtli (Wheatzilopochtly), the god of war and of the sun. At the ceremony, some 20,000 human beings were sacrificed on the temple altars at the command of the Aztec Emperor, Auitzotl, to appease the monstrous deity.
Even though most of us should know that most of the indigenous people were wiped out as a result of smallpox- which wasn’t intentional (germs weren’t even discovered yet)- there were still no doubt some horrible Europeans. The Conquistadors killed the Aztecs. But compared to the Aztecs what was their real crime? As Bowden says, at the very worst “the Europeans treated the Indians no differently that they treated one another.” It is significant that such actions were done against the culture of Western Civilization, as opposed to the Aztecs whose crimes were consistent with their worldview. Bowden states:
What happened is that there were Europeans who abandoned civilized standards in dealing with the Indians. The problem wasn’t that those Europeans had too much civilization. The problem was that they had too little.
Most of the atrocities against Native Americans in the U.S. have been at the hands of a tyrannical Federal government. President Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears all the way up to the Indian Wars of the late 1800s are the result of anti-Western tyranny. Don’t forget that the same government, generals, and army that committed countless crimes against the South (At the time the very epitome of Western Culture) after the War for Southern Independence, is the same unconstitutional government that wiped out the Native Americans a few years later. It was the Natives who fought alongside the South that received the worst treatment (i.e. Oklahoma Territory).
Those who hate Columbus and Western Civilization are ironically following in the footsteps of the European Frenchman Jean Jacque Rousseau who postulated the “Noble Savage,” which is the mythical idea that we must get back to the primitive basics. He envisioned a Utopian civilization stripped of all things “Western,” in which mankind would live as the Native Americans in tranquility with nature. Unfortunately for the dreamers, this world does not, never has, and never will exist, because man is evil. All societies are not equal; The one that admits the fact of man’s depravity is superior, and there’s only one civilization that does so: Western Civilization. Happy Columbus Day!