Perhaps the most insipid thing I’ve ever seen on the Internet is the “Good Guy Leif Erikson” meme.
The goal is to denigrate an American hero whose deeds 500 years ago fall short of our modern, enlightened value system. But this and other attacks on the man who discovered America are, in the parlance of contemporary online mobs, “problematic.”
Suggesting that Viking “explorers” were more peaceful than Spanish ones shows a distorted worldview. After all, Vikings in general were not peaceful tourists; we do know, at very least, that Leif’s brother Thorvald killed Native Americans. But it’s harder to peer back 1,000 years to see Leif Erikson than it is a mere 500 to see Columbus, and much easier to look down our noses at Columbus comes because he was sophisticated enough to write a lot of things down.
To help illustrate this in a way that will register with people on the Internet, please watch this scene from the “We wish we were Game of Thrones” series “Vikings” wherein the titular Norsemen raid and slaughter innocent monks at Lindisfarne Monastery.
Viking murder that has been whitewashed by the passing of time notwithstanding, the other thing I think about on Columbus Day is the 164 feet tall Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, which reminds every Mongolian who their daddy is.
Now Wikipedia very antiseptically states that Khan “came to power by uniting many of the nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia.” Note of course that this “unity” didn’t come because he was a persuasive statesman who wrote an impassioned series of lectures and tirelessly worked to create the United States of Ulaanbaatar. Nope. A statue of him exists and his nation of people exist because he was better at killing than other competing warlords.
There is also genetic evidence that 1 in 200 men on Earth today are direct descendants of the Khan. I’m not going to go into detail about why he enjoyed such remarkable issue but let’s just say he wasn’t donating sperm to lesbian couples at hyper-progressive Bronze Age fertility clinics along the Gobi Desert. (Again: who’s your daddy?)
And no one in Mongolia desecrates his statue or protests the public holiday that celebrates his birth on November 14.
Up until very recently in human history, “genocide” was an essential part of survival. If you didn’t kill the tribe down the river, that tribe killed yours. “Survival of the fittest” I believe is how it’s termed in the animal kingdom and the human animal is no different. (So who’s denying science now, exactly?) Indeed, the natives of the Caribbean were just as warlike as anyone else – because again: humans – but we don’t focus on that because a) they lacked the record-keeping sophistication that Columbus did and b) white, liberal guilt.
Any society extant on Earth today exists because its progenitors were conquerors – or its progenitors were more mercifully conquered than they could have been. Remnants of the culture Columbus where committed “genocide” still exist … but how many Etruscans survived after Rome finished with them? Europeans massacred and enslaved Europeans, Asians did the same to other Asians, the same with Africans, and every other people on Earth. (Indeed it was so bad for Slavic people that that’s where the term “slave” comes from.) The phenomenon of Columbus is his culture was sophisticated enough it could invade people who looked different.
The Spanish conquest of Latin America is not some idiosyncrasy of human history; attacking Christopher Columbus is racist.
Willfully ignoring these realities and vilifying one of the heroes who created our society serves no purpose. Arrogantly condemning the “sins of the past” cultivates intellectual dishonesty, self-righteousness, and ingratitude for the efforts of our forbearers.
Conquest provided slave labor, which allowed for free time, which allowed culture and natural philosophy to flourish, which led to scientific innovation, which created technology, which made slave labor obsolete. And from that development of culture came the idea of human rights which has allowed us to feel guilty about how we got to this point.
To paraphrase John Adams, “I study war that my sons may study math so my grandsons may study art.” Nowadays he’d have to add, “So my great-great-grandsons may whine and complain about all I did for them.”
Multi-culturalism is not some universal force like gravity that European conquest of the Western Hemisphere somehow violated. Like all sociological constructs, multi-culturalism is something that had to be created – and it was created by the Europeans who settled North America.
The notion of the “melting pot” may be a bit oversimplified, but if multi-culturalism wasn’t created in the laboratory of the American experiment, where – I ask my dissatisfied, revisionist history-writing, Columbus-hating friends – did it come from?
And the first hallmark of American multi-culturalism was the resolution by an English-speaking, Northern European Protestant culture to venerate an Italian Catholic who worked for the Spanish.
And yes, of course, I know Columbus didn’t “discover America.” But his landing on the island of Hispaniola (what we call Haiti) initiated widespread colonization of the West by Europeans which led to the culture, freedoms, and prosperity that we enjoy. Indeed, Columbus’s success as a mover of world history set the stage for malcontents to vilify him 500 years later.
No Columbus, no America. No America, no Internet. No Internet, no online mobs. Columbus discovered America.
Now shut up.