Anti-Colum­bus Day: A dis­cov­ery of in­tol­er­ance

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - OPINION - Chris Freind Colum­nist

“Christo­pher Colum­bus: Hero or Vil­lain?”

That de­lib­er­ately mis­lead­ing, no-win ques­tion is be­ing asked to young stu­dents across the coun­try.

Those choos­ing “vil­lain” are short­changed, as Colum­bus’ myr­iad ac­com­plish­ments are over­shad­owed by his “bad deeds.”

And any­one in the “hero” camp be­comes hope­lessly en­snared in the trap of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. With their viewpoint of­ten de­rided as con­don­ing “racism,” stu­dents be­come pari­ahs among class­mates and teach­ers, and are shamed for their in­de­pen­dent thought.

When the free flow of ideas can no longer take place, and where ret­ri­bu­tion for speak­ing one’s mind is a real pos­si­bil­ity, is it any won­der that we are grad­u­at­ing func­tional il­lit­er­ates?

But in­doc­tri­nat­ing an en­tire gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren isn’t enough. For some, de­struc­tion and phys­i­cal vi­o­lence are pre­ferred. And on Colum­bus Day in Philadel­phia – Amer­ica’s cra­dle of lib­erty – the rad­i­cals did not dis­ap­point.

A statue of Colum­bus – al­ready fenced in for pro­tec­tion from van­dals – was des­e­crated, along with the His­tory of Ital­ian Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Mu­seum, as ex­trem­ists graf­fi­tied them with “Geno­cide;” “Rape;” “Stolen Land;” “Slav­ery;” and, best of all, “Colum­bus = Mus­solini = Trump = Fas­cism.”

Let’s get this straight. The same peo­ple who de­mo­nize Christo­pher Colum­bus for his “in­tol­er­ances” think that the way to “cor­rect” his­tory is through – you guessed it – in­tol­er­ance.

Their hypocrisy is stag­ger­ing, their ac­tions coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, and their mes­sage ap­palling.

An in­creas­ing num­ber of cities through­out Amer­ica are abol­ish­ing Colum­bus Day in fa­vor of “Indige­nous Peo­ple’s Day,” which os­ten­si­bly cel­e­brates the his­tory and con­tri­bu­tions of indige­nous cul­tures, while ruth­lessly crit­i­ciz­ing Euro­pean set­tlers for colo­nial­ism and land grabs.

With­out ques­tion, the Euro­peans and, sub­se­quently, Amer­i­cans, did not al­ways do the right thing, es­pe­cially to Na­tive Amer­i­cans. Atroc­i­ties were com­mit­ted (on both sides), and noth­ing can ever fully right those wrongs.

But Amer­ica, de­spite the er­rors of its past, has shown a most re­mark­able re­silience – more than any na­tion in his­tory – to not just learn from its mis­takes, but make things right and yes, bet­ter, for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

Where does it end? If we take their lit­mus tests to their log­i­cal con­clu­sions – that ev­ery­one from the Con­fed­er­ates to Colum­bus to any­one who ever owned slaves must be vil­i­fied and dis­carded – we must de­stroy most of our his­tory.

The Jef­fer­son Memo­rial should be re­pur­posed; An­drew Jack­son must be re­moved from the $20 bill; the Wash­ing­ton Mon­u­ment, and in­deed the na­tion’s cap­i­tal it­self, should be re­named; and the Ivy League’s Brown Uni­ver­sity should close be­cause it op­er­ated via slave­trade money.

And yes, the World War II mon­u­ment would have to come down be­cause of our treat­ment of Ja­panese-Amer­i­can cit­i­zens in in­tern­ment camps.

In­stead of bans, we should be striv­ing to win the day with ideas, but too many are scared to do so.

Should there be an Indige­nous Peo­ple’s Day? Ab­so­lutely. We would all be bet­ter served by learn­ing about Na­tive Amer­i­can his­tory and cul­ture. And yes, their un­for­tu­nate strug­gles with Euro­peans and Amer­i­cans should be prom­i­nent in those teach­ings.

But Indige­nous Peo­ple’s Day and Colum­bus Day should not come down to a choice that pits one side against the other. We are ma­ture enough to cel­e­brate both the Euro­pean and Na­tive Amer­i­can cul­tures; to be fair, each should have its own cel­e­bra­tion.

The an­swer is not repa­ra­tions. It isn’t to give back lands that were seized.

And it cer­tainly isn’t disin­gen­u­ously por­tray­ing his­tor­i­cal fig­ures in a one-sided way, evis­cer­at­ing those of a cer­tain eth­nic­ity (and via guilt-by-as­so­ci­a­tion, their present day prog­eny), while mak­ing oth­ers ap­pear in­no­cent and an­gelic.

Hu­man be­ings, by their na­ture, are flawed, but they also pos­sess the unique de­sire to bet­ter them­selves. Rather than de­volve into the basest of hu­man be­hav­ior, let’s demon­strate the ul­ti­mate in tol­er­ance by civilly dis­cussing the good, and not-so-good, of his­tory’s most fa­mous fig­ures.

We could start by putting their ac­com­plish­ments and er­rors in proper con­text, free of ab­so­lutes and plat­i­tudes, so that our chil­dren can learn the most im­por­tant les­son of all: truth.

As Amer­i­cans, we owe that to both the Na­tive peo­ples, and Christo­pher Colum­bus.

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