Monday, October 10, 2005

Happy Columbus Day

Throughout recent years, the celebration of Columbus Day has been rejected by some people who view it as a celebration of conquest and genocide. In its place, Indigenous Peoples Day is celebrated ad nauseam.

Although Columbus was born in Genoa, by 1492 he had been in Spain for about seven years, and was in effect a Spanish citizen. The idea of spreading Spanish control was central to Spanish culture and the idea that one could arrive at a new country with no strong central government, and not claim such lands for the country one had sworn to support and defend, is foolish. The causes of war are often complex and attempts to personally blame one man for this warfare are ignorant at best. Most people in most societies, including American Indian societies, view killing in wartime as acceptable. This is not morally equivalent to murder, much less genocide.

Furthermore, most of us recognize that many people were in America long before Christopher Columbus. The Asiatics who became American Indians were the first, tens of thousands of years ago. Norse expeditions to North America, starting with Bjarni Herjolfsson in 986, have been well established historically. Many other pre-Columbian discoveries are not well established historically. Similar claims have been made of St. Brendan, Basque fishermen, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, and Carthaginians. Some of these claims could possibly be true but it's more likely that they are false.

Damian G. of Conservathink weighs in on this topic with an interesting perspective which I'd like to post here as well.

There is, however, strong evidence that Europeans crossed the Atlantic around the time the "Indians" crossed the Bering Strait. Since there were glaciers as far south as the English Channel, it is highly probable that they were able to sail along the edge of the ice, thus easing passage to eastern Canada.

Indeed. ;)

In any case, Columbus's discovery of America is justly regarded as the most historically important and will continue to be considered so because unlike all the others, Columbus inaugurated permanent two-way large-scale commerce between the Old World and the New World. Previous discoveries were so insignificant that even the most educated Europeans were not aware of the existence of America prior to Columbus.

Unlike any of his predecessors, Christopher Columbus changed the world.

Suggested reading-

Numbers From Nowhere by David Henige

Another more interesting take on the history of Columbus found over at Dr. Phat Tony's.

Of further interest-

"Morphed" image of Columbus from eight separate prints.

"Since no portraits of the famed discoverer, Christopher Columbus, were made during his lifetime, an analysis of the images used to describe the physical attributes of the man and his place in history is an exercise in cultural relativism. Three time periods veers studied: soon after his death when the public simply needed to know what the explorer looked like, hundreds of years after his explorations when commercial interests used Columbus as a symbol for their own further expansion into unknown territories, and during the present day when a majority of opinion about Columbus and his exploits is severely critical.

Morphing technology was used to produce a composite portrait of Christopher Columbus. This resulted in the portrait shown in Figure 1. Figure 2, referring back to the previous article, illustrates how each "original" portrait shown in the extreme right and left columns was scanned as a PICT file at 72dpi. The images were cropped, flipped (if necessary) and similarly sized using Adobe PhotoShop 2.5.1. Each pair of portraits was then turned into a composite image using the Morph 1.0 program by Gryphon. Morphed pairs were finally combined to make the composite image of Columbus seen in the middle of Figure 2."

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