Columbus Day has a special meaning this year.
Christopher Columbus is a carrier of Western civilization and the very
values attacked by terrorists on September 11. To the "politically
correct," Columbus Day is an occasion to be mourned. They have mourned,
they have attacked, and they have intimidated schools across the country
into replacing Columbus Day celebrations with "ethnic diversity" days.
The politically correct view is that Columbus did not discover
America, because people had lived here for thousands of years. Worse
yet, it's claimed, the main legacy of Columbus is death and destruction.
Columbus is routinely vilified as a symbol of slavery and genocide, and
the celebration of his arrival likened to a celebration of Hitler and
the Holocaust. The attacks on Columbus are ominous, because the actual
target is Western civilization.
Did Columbus "discover" America? Yes – in every important
respect. This does not mean that no human eye had been cast on America
before Columbus arrived. It does mean that Columbus brought America to
the attention of the civilized world, i.e., to the growing, scientific
civilizations of Western Europe.
The result, ultimately, was the United
States of America. It was Columbus' discovery for Western Europe that
led to the influx of ideas and people on which this nation was
founded – and on which it still rests. The opening of America brought the
ideas and achievements of Aristotle, Galileo, Newton and the thousands
of thinkers, writers and inventors who followed.
Prior to 1492, what is now the United States was sparsely
inhabited, unused and undeveloped. The inhabitants were primarily
hunter-gatherers, wandering across the land, living from hand to mouth
and from day to day. There was virtually no change, no growth, for
thousands of years.
With rare exception, life was nasty, brutish and
short: There was no wheel, no written language, no division of labor,
little agriculture and scant permanent settlement; but there were
endless bloody wars. Whatever the problems it brought, the vilified
Western culture also brought enormous undreamed-of benefits, without
which most of today's Indians would be infinitely poorer or not even
Columbus should be honored, for in so doing, we honor Western
civilization. But the critics do not want to bestow such honor, because
their real goal is to denigrate the values of Western civilization and
to glorify the primitivism, mysticism and collectivism embodied in the
tribal cultures of American Indians. They decry the glorification of the
West as "cultural imperialism" and "Eurocentrism."
We should, they
claim, replace our reverence for Western civilization with
multiculturalism, which regards all cultures (including vicious
tyrannies) as morally equal. In fact, they aren't. Some cultures are
better than others: A free society is better than slavery; reason is
better than brute force as a way to deal with other men; productivity is
better than stagnation.
In fact, Western civilization stands for man at
his best. It stands for the values that make human life possible:
reason, science, self-reliance, individualism, ambition, productive
achievement. The values of Western civilization are values for all men;
they cut across gender, ethnicity and geography. We should honor
Western civilization not for the ethnocentric reason that some of us
happen to have European ancestors but because it is the objectively
Underlying the political collectivism of the anti-Columbus crowd
is a racist view of human nature. They claim that one's identity is
primarily ethnic: If one thinks his ancestors were good, he will
supposedly feel good about himself; if he thinks his ancestors were bad,
he will supposedly feel self-loathing.
But it doesn't work; the
achievements or failures of one's ancestors are monumentally irrelevant
to one's actual worth as a person. Only the lack of a sense of self
leads one to look to others to provide what passes for a sense of
identity. Neither the deeds nor misdeeds of others are his own; he can
take neither credit nor blame for what someone else chose to do.
are no racial achievements or racial failures, only individual
achievements and individual failures. One cannot inherit moral worth or
moral vice. "Self-esteem through others" is a self-contradiction.
Thus the sham of "preserving one's heritage" as a rational life
goal. Thus the cruel hoax of "multicultural education" as an antidote to
racism: It will continue to create more racism.
Individualism is the
only alternative to the racism of political correctness. We must
recognize that everyone is a sovereign entity, with the power of choice
and independent judgment. That is the ultimate value of Western
civilization, and it should be proudly proclaimed.
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