Sunday, October 10, 2010

Horrendous Columbus Day article

Below is an opinion article posted on Fox News. My comments are in red and not part of the article.

Let's Take Back Columbus Day

By Thomas A. Bowden

More than a century ago, America celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s voyage of discovery by hosting an enormous world’s fair on the shores of Lake Michigan. This “World’s Columbian Exposition” featured statues of the great explorer, replicas of his three ships, and commemorative stamps and coins. Because Columbus Day was a patriotic holiday--it marked the opening chapter in American history--the newly written Pledge of Allegiance was first recited in schools on October 12, 1892.

Nowadays, however, an embarrassed, guilty silence descends on the nation each Columbus Day. We’ve been taught that Columbus opened the way for rapacious European settlers to unleash a stream of horrors on a virgin continent: slavery, racism, warfare, epidemic, and the cruel oppression of Indians.Because it did.

This modern view of Columbus represents an unjust attack upon both our country and the civilization that made it possible. How is it unjust if it’s the truth and not blown out of proportion? Is evidence against a murderer unjust against the murderer? Western civilization did not originate slavery, racism, warfare, or disease--but with America as its exemplar, that civilization created the antidotes. We still have slavery, racism, warfare and disease. And just because it didn’t originate it, doesn’t mean its immune from criticism – they perpetuated decades old horrors, how is that okay?How? By means of a set of core ideas that set Western civilization apart from all others: reason and individualism.

Throughout history, prior to the birth of Western civilization in ancient Greece, the world seemed impervious to human understanding. People believed that animistic spirits or capricious deities had supernatural powers to cure diseases, grow crops, and guide the hunter’s arrow toward his prey. To get the attention of these inscrutable spirits, people resorted to prayer, ritual, taboo, and human sacrifice, relying always on the mystic insights of shamans and priests. As opposed to monotheists who resort to similar things?

This pervasive mysticism had practical consequences: festering disease, perpetual poverty, and a desperate quest for survival that made offensive warfare against human beings seem as natural as hunting animals. Such was the plight of America’s Indians before 1492--and such was Europe’s own plight, once the civilizations of Greece and Rome had given way to the mysticism of Christianity and the barbarian tribes.

It was Western philosophers, scientists, statesmen, and businessmen who liberated mankind from mysticism’s grip. Eastern philosophy, Taoism in particular, has preached against this stuff long before Western did. Definite case of eurocentricism here. Once scientists revealed a world of natural laws open to human understanding, medical research soon penetrated the mysteries of disease and epidemic, allowing us to look back with pity upon American Indians and other historical victims of diseases now preventable and curable. The same Indians who got smallpox from us?

On a much wider scale, the Industrial Revolution employed science, technology, and engineering to create material goods in profusion, so that even people of average ability could become affluent by historical standards. By demonstrating how wealth can be created in abundance rather than stolen by armed force, America and the West supplied a moral alternative to the bloody tribal warfare of past eras. Except that there was still an armed force taking away wealth – the state.

Western civilization’s stress on the value of reason led inexorably to its distinctive individualism. Western thinkers were first to declare that every individual, no matter what his skin color or ancestry, is fully human, possessed of reason and free will--a being of self-made character who deserves to be judged accordingly, not as a member of a racial or tribal collective. What about the Jains? And thanks to John Locke and the Founding Fathers, individuals were recognized as possessing individual rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness--rights that made slavery indefensible and led to its eradication, at the cost of a civil war. The Founding Fathers owned slaves.

These are the facts we are no longer taught—Says who? and the measure of that educational failure is the disdain with which Columbus’s holiday is regarded in the country that owes its existence to his courage. It is time to take back Columbus Day, as an occasion to publicly rejoice, not in the bloodshed that occurred before Columbus’s arrival and after, but in our commitment to the life-serving values of Western civilization: reason and individualism. We do so by honoring the great explorer who opened the way for that civilization to flourish in the New World and invent iPads


Thomas A. Bowden is an analyst at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. Mr. Bowden is a former lawyer and law school instructor who practiced for twenty years in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”


For someone who buys into reason (in the form of Objectivism) hook, line, and sinker, he really missed the boat on these arguments.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Introduction to Poetry - Billy Collins (1988)

I ask them to take a poem

and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.