Celebrate Columbus, Ignore Zinn –Let us today, this Columbus Day ignore Howard Zinn, who was after all a very bad historian, and celebrate the guy who, for all intents and purposes, discovered America.
Vinland, after all, never really took.
Howard Zinn was a socialist who wrote “A People’s History of the United States” which used to be able to be read for free at a site, appropriately enough regarding Zinn, called HistoryIsAWeapon.com. It no longer seems to be available there, however.
Zinn claims that America has always been ruled by oppressors — the 1 percenters who own a third of the wealth and keep control by fermenting dissent among the 99 percent who are the rest of us — and starts his claim with Columbus who he says committed genocide on the residents of the West Indies.
It seems to be the theme pushed by the hipster crowd in the twenty-teens.
Well, the truth is the Spanish were pretty rough on the native peoples of the Caribbean, something we know from Spanish sources, but the cruelty was obviously not done at the direction of Spanish authorities as steps were taken to stop it when complaints reached them. Further, the native peoples of the Caribbean were not without their flaws either. The name for the Caribbean comes from the Carib tribe, from whence we also get the word cannibal.
And while Columbus was far from perfect he does not appear to be the gratuitously cruel tyrant Zinn and our hipster friends claim him to be. In Columbus’ own words this is what he says about the Lucayan peoples of the Bahamas who Zinn et al alleges he mutilated and slaughtered: “They are very gentle and without knowledge of what is evil; nor do they murder or steal… . Your Highness may believe that in all the world there can be no better people … they have the sweetest talk in the world, and are always laughing.”
It seems the revisionists are getting their signals crossed, which is understandable as Zinn is a rather bad historian.
America is a place that allowed tens of millions of Europeans and Asians to escape the feudalism that infected their homelands and her discovery only deserves to be celebrated. Even Africans should celebrate. Slavery existed in Africa — it wasn’t Europeans doing the slave catching — before the trans-Atlantic slave trade and it was only after the founding of the United States did the push begin to end it. Pennsylvania was one of the first recognized governments in in history, to ban slavery which happened in 1780 in the middle of the Revolutionary War.
Hipsters ironically want a day named for Bishop Bartolomé de las Casas and there is a point to that as the Bishop is one of history’s good guys. On the other hand, he was the one who suggested that the labor lost due to the death of Indians be replaced by Africans and some credit him with the start of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
History is a bit more nuanced than Zinn and the hipster crowd make it out to be.
One more bit of irony: Zinn’s work was popularized by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck who grew up near Zinn and were family friends. Damon and Affleck are now part of the one-percenter crowd. They have yet to give most of their money to the rest of us, and certainly have not led any crusades to end the tax breaks for performing artists who receive mega millions per film.