Justin’s note: Cities across the country are done with Columbus Day.
San Francisco has done it. Cincinnati’s done it. And most recently, Columbus, Ohio—a city named after Christopher Columbus—decided to stop celebrating the holiday.
All told, more than a dozen U.S. cities have stopped observing Columbus Day. And many now celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead. In other words, they honor Native Americans.
It’s an interesting development. So, earlier this week, I got Doug on the phone to get his thoughts…
Justin: Doug, cities across the country are ditching Columbus Day. In some cases, they’re celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead.
I’m curious to see what you think about this change. But can you first share your thoughts on Columbus Day? Should Americans celebrate the accomplishments of Christopher Columbus?
Doug: I have mixed feelings about it—but not the kind of mixed feelings that politically correct types have. I’m generally opposed to governments declaring national holidays. Who chooses these national holidays? On what basis are they chosen?
But I don’t see anything wrong with Columbus Day in itself. On the contrary. What Columbus did was heroic. He’s one of the great explorers in all of history. Voyaging into the great unknown, he single-handedly changed the course of world history. It’s despicable the way the usual suspects, the politically correct types, denigrate his accomplishment.
It took courage, physical stamina, persistence, intellectual curiosity, self-reliance, and numerous other virtues. Which, among others, are lacking in the types who want to overthrow the holiday.
Justin: So you don’t think Americans should be celebrating indigenous people instead.
Doug: No. Frankly, what are their accomplishments? No literature. No music. No science. No philosophical concepts. The Aztecs, the Maya, and the Inca left some blood-soaked monumental architecture that’s of interest to archaeologists and tourists, of course. But the pre-Columbian Indian cultures are just among many hundreds in the world that have vanished. Most without a trace.
People don’t understand that, throughout history, when one group, culture, or civilization met another, the one with the more advanced technology almost always totally devastated the more primitive one. It’s sad, perhaps, but I fear it’s also inevitable. It’s how humans are genetically wired. We can, I think, overcome the will to conquer as individuals. But once humans form into large groups it’s a different story.
Genghis Khan is the best example of this. He destroyed everything in his path, up to and including everything in Eastern Europe. Along the way, he built pyramids of skulls and enslaved whole populations. Rameses, Ashurbanipal, Xerxes, Alexander, Caesar—throughout time, right up to the present, people remember the names of conquerors. It’s a pity. That’s a topic for another time.
But Columbus came primarily as an explorer and a trader, which is laudable. I researched it a bit, and was surprised to find there were about 1,500 colonists with him on his second expedition in 1493. Things naturally devolved; now it was mass colonization. And 30 years later came Cortez, Pizarro, and the rest of the conquistadors.
What happened with European colonization was basically par for the course. But that’s irrelevant to the anti-Columbus types. People who are against Columbus are basically evidencing a hatred of Western civilization. They’re always searching for something, anything, in its history that can be twisted to discredit it.
Justin: What about the fact that Columbus introduced deadly diseases to the New World, and wiped out untold numbers of indigenous people in the process? That’s another reason why people think we shouldn’t celebrate Columbus Day.
Doug: It’s not Columbus’ fault that his expeditions brought new diseases to the New World, nor was it his intention.
That’s one of the most ridiculous things that people bring up about him to show he’s evil. It’s what happens when a relatively isolated population encounters outsiders. On the other hand, it’s thought that the Indians are responsible for syphilis infesting the Old World.
Does this mean that Middle Easterners or the Chinese should be blamed for the bubonic plague that hit Europe in the 1300s and wiped out half of the European population? The answer is no. This is just part of physical reality in pre-industrial times.
Justin: Totally agree.
Also, I don’t know if you saw this but astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson recently said Columbus coming to America was “the most significant thing to ever happen to our species.”
In short, he believes this because when Columbus arrived in America, it reconnected two branches of the human species that had been cut off from one another for 10,000 years. In the process, humans became one common genetic group.
Doug: Most important thing that’s ever happened? I think not. In fact, it’s kind of a silly statement. There’s no imperative to reunite branches of humanity that have become separated; it didn’t advance anything of value. In fact, as mankind conquers other planets, and eventually other solar systems, the human race will speciate in any number of ways. The value in Columbus finding the New World wasn’t to re-integrate an isolated branch of humanity. It was finding a vast new area, vast new resources, and vast new knowledge.
The “natives” brought very little to the party.
Justin: And what about the fact that Columbus enslaved natives? Should that be a reason to not celebrate Columbus Day?
Doug: Slavery was common all over the world then. They all made slaves of each other. Absolutely including all the New World natives. Why is Columbus singled out as an especially bad guy? And, incidentally, what wiped out widespread slavery wasn’t any great moral awakening. It was the Industrial Revolution. It made slavery uneconomic.
Slavery is still common in non-Western parts of the world today. If it hadn’t been for the advances brought by Western Civilization—via Columbus—the Indians of the New World would undoubtedly still be practicing slavery, human sacrifice, and cannibalism. Nothing against the Indians in particular—those things are common to all primitive people.
The demonization of Columbus is one of the ridiculous straw men that PC types set up wherever they can. It’s part of “identity politics.”
Do you know who Russell Means was?
Justin: I can’t say I do.
Doug: He was well-known as an American Indian activist, and an actor in The Last of the Mohicans and other movies. He was also a friend of mine—although not close. That was impossible; he had a chip on both shoulders. He came to visit in Aspen a couple of times, for a private conference I used to put on. But the one thing I couldn’t handle about Russell was that he was a professional Indian. He saw everything about American Indian culture as good, noble, ecological, and so forth—which is nonsense. He resented Western culture.
I agreed with him that Indians got a raw deal in lots of ways. But you couldn’t discuss it with him, because being an Indian was more important to him than being a human. If I’d been so impolitic as to say the Indians were a primitive culture it might have gotten unpleasant. Russell wasn’t a PC type, but some of his psychology reflected their attitudes…
Justin: Doug, I can’t help but see a connection between Columbus Day hysteria and all the recent demands for Confederate statues to be taken down.
And I understand why people want this. But I’m also concerned by the trend of burying parts of our history that we don’t like or would like to forget. What are your thoughts?
Doug: The hostility towards Columbus Day is only part of a much bigger picture. For instance, you don’t dare display the Stars and Bars, the flag of the Confederacy anymore. They’re taking down the statues of Confederate generals everywhere.
Elements of society are trying to send things down what Orwell called “the memory hole.” It’s exactly the same psychology that caused people in the USSR to be retroactively deleted from photographs once Stalin disappeared them in real life.
Justin: But aren’t Confederate statues symbols of racism?
Doug: No. That’s a ridiculous belief. Few people realize that the War Between the States wasn’t fought over slavery. That was merely a cause for antagonism between ideologues, later a justification for making the North look righteous. The Civil War was primarily a question of economics. The South realized that the North, which already controlled Congress and had imposed high tariffs on imports to protect its manufacturers, to the extreme detriment of the South—was about to do much more. But abolishing slavery wasn’t an issue. Lincoln said that many times.
The so-called Civil War was really a war of secession, not a civil war. A civil war is one where two groups are fighting for the control of one government. That wasn’t the case.
Now, were the Southerners racist? Of course. But the Northerners were just as racist as the Southerners. Everybody’s a racist. This is true through all times and all places. It’s inbred in humans to fear and exclude members of different groups. It’s not philosophically laudable, but it’s biologically predictable.
Slavery was on its way out anyway. It was uneconomic with the advent of machinery. In fact, the whole unpleasantness of 1861–1865 was unnecessary. And frankly, I’d say it would’ve been a good thing, for many reasons, if the South had been allowed to depart peacefully, and there were at least two countries in what’s now the U.S.
But that’s a different subject. The problem is that a group is going out of its way to destroy history. But just the parts they don’t like. There are lots of these types—the faculties and administrators of colleges, the students they corrupt, the media. And Boobus Americanus goes along because he doesn’t think, he only feels. It’s completely dishonest. It’s horrible.
Totalitarian movements throughout history have always tried to destroy the past of the civilizations they take over. Mao in China did the same thing: trying to wipe out all memory of Chinese civilization, philosophy, and literature that came before the communist regime took over. This is typical totalitarian thinking. It’s happening now in the U.S. And what we’re discussing is symptomatic.
There’s zero reason to sympathize with these people. You should actually despise them for trying to send episodes of history down the memory hole. It’s not just about Columbus Day. It’s about the collapse of Western Civilization.
Justin: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today, Doug.
Doug: You’re welcome.