For John, BLUF: I don't think this holiday is about Christopher Columbus. I think it is about a small civilization that managed to grow in ideas and hopes and economic development, when others were shutting down. Nothing to see here; just move along.
Law Professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds blogs about it:
Many in the West will demonstrate their fierce originality and intellectual independence today by condemning Christopher Columbus using the same shopworn cliches they used last year. For those of a different bent, I recommend Samuel Eliot Morison’s Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus, which takes a somewhat different position. Here’s an excerpt:The idea that people ought to stay where they are makes little sense, given the history of human beings. For example, the Native Americans didn't start in the Western Hemisphere. They came over the Bearing Straits from Asia. There is the explosive expansion of the Mongels under Genghis Khaan and then the movement of the Golden Horde. And, by the time of Columbus the Chinese had sailed bigger ships, in larger fleets, to the Coast of Africa.At the end of 1492 most men in Western Europe felt exceedingly gloomy about the future. Christian civilization appeared to be shrinking in area and dividing into hostile units as its sphere contracted. For over a century there had been no important advance in natural science and registration in the universities dwindled as the instruction they offered became increasingly jejune and lifeless. Institutions were decaying, well-meaning people were growing cynical or desperate, and many intelligent men, for want of something better to do, were endeavoring to escape the present through studying the pagan past. . . .
Yet, even as the chroniclers of Nuremberg were correcting their proofs from Koberger’s press, a Spanish caravel named Nina scudded before a winter gale into Lisbon with news of a discovery that was to give old Europe another chance. In a few years we find the mental picture completely changed. Strong monarchs are stamping out privy conspiracy and rebellion; the Church, purged and chastened by the Protestant Reformation, puts her house in order; new ideas flare up throughout Italy, France, Germany and the northern nations; faith in God revives and the human spirit is renewed. The change is complete and startling: “A new envisagement of the world has begun, and men are no longer sighing after the imaginary golden age that lay in the distant past, but speculating as to the golden age that might possibly lie in the oncoming future.”
Christopher Columbus belonged to an age that was past, yet he became the sign and symbol of this new age of hope, glory and accomplishment. His medieval faith impelled him to a modern solution: Expansion.
Hat tip to the InstaPundit.
Regards — Cliff