To the "politically correct," the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America is no cause for celebration. And even before 1992 began, their protests resulted in a significant victory: the naming of an American Indian as co-grand marshal in the 1992 Rose Parade. Parade officials caved in to critics, who denounced the tournament committee when it first named as grand marshal Cristobal Colon, a direct descendant of Christopher Columbus. But the actual target of those critics was not simply Colon; it was Western civilization.
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. Pasadena's vice-mayor, Rick Cole, branded Columbus's descendant "a symbol of greed, slavery, rape, and genocide." And one Indian leader likened the celebration of Columbus's arrival to a celebration of Hitler and the Holocaust.
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., the developing scientific civilizations of Western Europe. The result, ultimately, was the United States of America. It was Columbus's 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. What they replaced was a way of life dominated by fatalism, passivity, superstition, and magic.
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 todayÕs Indians would be infintely poorer or not even alive.
The particular actions of Columbus and his men are irrelevant to the current controversy: Columbus should be honored, for in so doing, we honor Western civilization. But the critics do not want to bestow such honor, and this is the real reason for the opposition to Columbus as the discoverer of America. Their real goal is to denigrate the values of Western civilization and to glorify the primitivism, mysticism, and collectivism embodied in...