I came across this little gem of an exchange on a prominent conservative blog where United States Congressmen regularly post.

Whoah there, Gamecock, you just went from 0 to Howard Dean in about five seconds there. Back up a second. I didn’t say I agreed with all the comments Galeano made. It was an extremely one-sided piece that failed to credit Columbus for his legitimate accomplishments as a navigator and explorer. It also portrayed the Spanish conquests only from the perspective of the brutality of the Spaniards, without discussing the brutality of native civilizations. In the case of Mexico, Cortez defeated the Aztecs largely because he had thousands of Indian allies who joined him because they were fed up with abuses on the part of the Aztec overlords.

On the other hand, none of this has anything to do with the United States. Columbus neither discovered nor settled the area that became the continental United States. Nor is it true that without his discovery there would have been no United States (as you claim). The fact is that by 1492 improvements in European navigation made discovery and settlement of North and South America a dead certainty. Indeed, the Vikings (as we know now) had already discovered Greenland and Newfoundland sometime in the late 10th century. Moreover, Northern European fishermen from England, France, and Holland were already fishing the waters around present-day New England at about the same time the Spanish were conquering Mexico and Peru. So there is no reason to think that the colonization of those areas depended on Columbus’s exploits.

As far as Columbus day being an American holiday, who cares? The Knights of Columbus and the Italian-American community, that’s who. In 1892, as waves of Italian immigrants began pouring into this country, President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation asking Americans to recognize Columbus’s achievement in some way. He didn’t specify how, nor did he make it an official holiday. But over the following decades the Knights of Columbus, an Italian-Catholic civic organization, became lobbying to have it recognized as a holiday throughout the country. Several states, including New York, obliged them, but it didn’t become an official U.S. holiday until 1971 (cough, Nixon had an election to win the following year, cough, cough). In all seriousness, it makes about as much sense for Americans to celebrate Columbus day as it does for us to celebrate St. Patrick’s day, Cinco de Mayo, Kwanzaa, or Valentine’s Day (or even, dare I say it, MLK day?). And we have those noxious holidays for the same two reasons that we have Columbus Day. First, there are certain vocal communities within our society that insist, loudly and angrily, that the rest of spend time recognizing their achievements and heritage. Second, American retailers make a whole boatload of cash from these holidays.

So in conclusion, you can celebrate Columbus Day if you want (although I doubt you actually do celebrate it in any meaningful way). If you’re Italian, I don’t begrudge you the chance to connect with your inner Tony Soprano. Heck, if you just need a day off, any excuse will do. But don’t try to pretend it’s a patriotic thing, because that’s a load of crap.

A precedent embalms a principle.
- Disraeli

Gamecock responds:

Your claim is not logical. Columbus represents our tie to western civilization and how its virtues, including the discovery and conquest of our land that led to our founding
and our becoming the Beacon of Liberty, all of which the author is trashing by a historical fiction that lables Columbus a savage and the natives gentle.

He is suggesting it would have been better if Columbus had not come. To beleive that one has to believe that the world would have been better off.

That is insane, ie leftist world view. The view that hates America.

The thread continues in this vein for approximately fifty posts, becoming increasingly heated, denying anything negative from the historical record. A number of the posters even go so far as to claim that it is because of the United States that any country in the world has freedom. The position seems to be that either everything about Western history is good, or everything about Western history is bad. This argument wasn’t simply between two people, but a number expressed Gamecock’s sentiments. Incidentally, Gamecock is apparently an editorialist for his local newspaper. The first poster, apparently a highschool history teacher, provides all sorts of historical references to back up his claims throughout this fifty post exchange, yet is simply rejected for being critical of Gamecock. My question is this: In what possible universe would it be possible to have productive dialogue with such people? What is it that is going on here? What generates these sorts of beliefs? It is incredibly difficult for me to understand such people, yet they’re also extremely common here in the States. Is this something unique to our historical moment?

I will not link to the original site where this discussion took place. Having witnessed how members of these groups sometimes go after people personally, it’s best not to engage them at all. Free Republic, for instance, today posted the home address of the mentally disabled 12 year old boy used in the SCHIP commercials. Nice folk. I’d be happy to send the link through email to anyone curious to read the entire bizarre thread. It’s an excellent example of a certain structure of ideology. I tend to think that such texts are often more valuable than the work of ideological critics such as Althusser or Zizek… Or rather, that the work of ideological critics does not amount to much if you’re not familiar with these sorts of non-academic discourses.

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