Today is Columbus Day. Banks and Post Offices are closed here in the United States. We are in the Major League Baseball pennant race, Football Season and all sorts of hunting seasons. However, today we observe a holiday that commemorates the man who in 1492 sailed the ocean blue.
The memory of this man and his ideals is not a hard thing for me to honor. He did help to bring about the end of many worlds but he also represented powers less destructive, corrupt an evil than some on the stage. In addition the man’s sense of adventure, exploration, faith and courage are admirable.
There is a great deal that happened in the years leading up to and following hard upon 1492. First of all there was the recovery of the Classical and other Greek Culture from the Muslim States in Spain which led to the Renaissance. Today we use Arabic numerals and there certainly is much that Arabic and Islamic culture can claim to have contributed. However the destruction of Hellenic Christian culture in Egypt and all of North Africa, in what is now Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Armenia and farther afield mostly was a transfer of a far superior civilization to the inferior and backwards Arab Muslim culture. The West was triply backward. Rome had never equalled the sophistication of the Alexandria, Jerusalem and Athens in their different ways. It surpassed them in some things but not overall socio-technical development. Then the relatively narrow and militaristic Romans were conquered by the more narrow and militaristic German Barbarians. The Greek influence from the East had helped to lead towards a new civilization untill the Muslims cut off those well springs as they destroyed what was a left of the great Greek civilization of the Eastern Roman Empire based in Byzantium. The conquest of the Muslims in Spain brought this scholarship back to the shriveled remnant of Christendom we would come to call Christendom. Many Jews converted because those who would not convert were required to leave Spain. There was a Spanish Christian King with a Jewish mistress who opposed forced conversions and was known as Pedro the Cruel and he was defeated at about this time by another Spanish Christian King. The good of this forcing of a single Spanish identity in formal religion that these Jews did refresh Christianity in the West from its Hebrew roots. The tragedy is the suffering of the nonconverting Sephardic Jews. The experience of Spanish Moslems mirrored that of Spanish Jews to some degree. The possibly Italo-Spanish Columbus of mixed Jewish and Latin descent came from all this to bring forth a new world off opportunity. The modern world is probably much better than it would have been had he not succeeded. Had he not succeeded then a much more violent, paranoid and desperate Muslim or Christian civilization would have succeeded decades later. Latin America remains a mix of Aboriginal American cultures and Latin Cultures as well as a genetic mix. Without Columbus and his ideals there would have been a more destructive approach in a few years I feel certain. I am not uncritical of his legacy but I still believe in civilization and he was a man committed to civilization. Never was mere selfishness, cowardice nor greed enough to shape his life. He was an imperfect man struggling to do good in an imperfect world. He sometimes struggled to do things less clearly good. However, he never fell away from seeking after true greatness.
We need people of the caliber of Columbus today. We need quests pursued to spectacular results. However, we have to have the Isabellas who will relive the legacy of the Spanish Queen who supported him…
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