Why are we so embarrassed that Columbus ever set foot in the New World?

This year, the quincentenary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America, one might have expected great commemorations and celebrations. Instead, the National Council of Churches came out against celebrating. The city of Berkeley, California, named 1992 “Indigenous People’s Year.” The Zurich, Switzerland, newspaper Tages-Anzeiger speaks of the “arrogance” involved when the “European West” thinks that it has “discovered” something and implies that the Spaniards and other colonizers massacred 120 million Indians. The French demographer Pierre Chaunu, who is a Membre de l’Institut Français and a Reformed pastor, speaks of a “demographic catastrophe” (though it was caused not primarily by massacre, but by the unwitting introduction of diseases, such as smallpox, to which the native South and North American populations had not developed any immunity). It is as if the West, especially the Christian West, seems ashamed the Columbus anniversary is taking place at all.

Examples of the West’s persistent feelings of inferiority abound. Stanford University, one of the nation’s foremost centers of intellectual life, has “politically corrected” its required undergraduate course in Western Civilization. Hollywood films not only attack the white man’s militarization, but also his culture and, implicitly, his Christianity.

It seems Christian North America is, in the words of H. F. Schrader of Lörrach, Germany, “constantly apologizing for the fact that it exists.” Europeans and white North Americans have committed egregious wrongs—wrongs requiring repentance—but we must put the failings in correct perspective.

Sailing The Ocean Blue

Fourteen-ninety-two held not only Columbus’s ...

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