Monday, October 09, 2006

Happy Vilify Historic Explorers by Viewing Them with Modern Sensibilities Day

Yes, today is Columbus Day, when we celebrate the subjugation (and the apparent infection with white-man's disease) of Native Americans by that evil man Christopher Columbus, who coincidentally helped to dash our hopes of a flat earth. Meany.

Basically, this is the day when a bunch of folks who think the worst thing that ever happened to the Americas was being discovered. In some ways, they're a lot like Americans who think the worst thing that has ever happened to America is being discovered by Mexicans. What's their point in protesting?

Democracy Now! interviewed two of the protest movement's key figures, Glenn Morris and Glenn Spagnulo, who explain why 500-year-old white men should not be celebrated. They call Columbus Day parades "convoys of conquest" and label European discovery of the West -- whether by Ericson or Columbus -- as the kickoff of the Super Bowl of genocide.

Viewing history through the special prism of our biases is fraught with peril. We needn't embrace every event as poistive, but we cannot apply our current sensibilities to the decisions and acts of the distant past. We can only try to understand and attempt to apply the lessons to our real future. Fact is, Geronimo and Crazy Horse can be seen as heroic leaders or cold-blooded terrorists; Mayans can be viewed as an extraordinarily faithful culture or supremely primitive (and badly needing some civilization); the massacre of Jamestown can be described as Indian freedom-fighting or simply mass murder by bloodthirsty savages.

And it doesn't stop with Indians. Martin Luther King Jr. can be described as a great inspiration for change in an America that woefully needed change -- or a philanderer who enjoyed the company of many women other than Coretta. John Brown can be celebrated as a man who gave his life to free slaves -- or a monomaniacal religious fanatic and killer on the order of Timothy McVeigh.

So the prism of the American Indian Movement is no more noble nor equitable than anyone else's. History, like life itself, is usually more complex than its radical interpreters would have us think. No matter how hard they try, those events cannot be changed. And wouldn't it be nice if these revisionists applied equal energy to improving the future? We won't get anywhere by comparing our equally perverse interpretations of history.

(Imagine how future outer-space aliens will decry our landing on Mars ... )

1 comment:

Creditseeker said...

Very interesting blog... But it was so many year ago. We can try to think about sanitariness or something else for that time. It was really normal for that people. They are our past and history, we shouldn't judge them.
Thank you for your analyzing!