The Boston Herald described it as a foray “into the sea of battles that don't need to be fought.”
Efforts to wipe out history through tributes, memorials, monuments and statues related to people and events on this today are focused on Christopher Columbus, the explorer credited with discovering America and to whom we recognize with Columbus Day on the second Monday in October.
If some have their way, Columbus Day will go away. In places such as New York and Los Angeles, the day and any tribute to Columbus have been eliminated or are under review.
In Los Angeles, the city council voted to side with the Los Angeles Native American Indian Commission – which calls recognizing Columbus “a state-sponsored celebration of genocide and indigenous people.”
Despite pleas from an Italian-American group not to act, the council decided the second Monday in October (Columbus Day) now will be Indigenous Peoples Day. It’s already that way in Seattle, Denver and some other cities.
David Tucker, a senior fellow at the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University, Ohio, and the author of “Revolution and Resistance: Moral Revolution, Military Might, and the End of Empire,” makes the case that our country and the world are indebted to Columbus. In writing for InsideSources.com, he acknowledges that “dark thoughts” about Columbus and other explorers as conquerors “are not misplaced.
“Yet, when we think them we also should remember what the world was like when Europeans collided with the natives of North America and why that world no longer exists.”
He points out that Europeans headed west in the 15th century to what they thought was Asia because they were blocked from going east by the Muslim empires of the time. In Asia, China was rich and powerful beyond anything to which the Europeans could aspire. Compared to the Muslims and Chinese, the Europeans were poor, backward and weak.
“The Europeans suffered as the weak always do,” Tucker writes. Terrible plagues from Asia brought by commerce already had killed 100 million Europeans. They also suffered from slavery. Indeed, for many years Europe’s most valuable export to the Middle East was its own people, sold as slaves by the Vikings.
“The Europeans who conquered the Western hemisphere acted as people had always acted, no better or no worse; those they conquered suffered as the weaker always suffer, as the Europeans themselves had suffered,” Tucker states. “Of course, to say that Europeans acted as others had acted doesn’t justify the awful things Europeans did to each other, and to non-Europeans, in their long history. But it might persuade us to moderate our condemnation of Columbus and to judge him less harshly.”
And what about what resulted from European conquest in the new world and elsewhere?
Tucker writes: “The same power that enabled the Europeans to conquer the world also allowed them to impose their later views of human rights on the world. Even as the conquest was reaching its zenith in the 19th century, Europeans were bringing to the world the then-novel idea that one group of people did not have the right to impose its will on another group.”
The assertion of the self-evident truth of human equality followed in the Declaration of Independence and was carried further by the British, who suppressed the slave trade with their all-powerful navy, commercial might and insistent diplomacy, and led the campaign for the abolition of slavery. It was completed by American insistence after World War I and II that people everywhere have the right to self-determination.
So on this Columbus Day, consider Tucker’s conclusion: “We need no triumphalism. Instead, let it be a day to ponder the good and evil that humans are capable of and to wonder how we might encourage more of the good.”