Between the years 1494 and 1508 illegal aliens were responsible for something both amazing and frightening. Documented by a young priest (Bartolomé de las Casas), the invaders first did something the US government was unable to do in Detroit for the 2000 census, accurately count all the inhabitants throughout the island's 76,480 square kilometers--maybe using those statistical sampling techniques democrats are always talking about. This led to their second stunning achievement: counting 3 million dead over that eight year span (approx 1027 deaths/day). Present day city clerks on Chicago and Detroit with the assistance of computers, a modern post office and without language barriers (well, ...) can't track dead registered voters, but historians have discovered this task was actually easier half a millennium ago. Other estimates blame the aggressive undocumented invaders with eight million dead (2739 deaths/day) suggesting an even busier priest or a concerted effort to reinterpret history to support an anti-western agenda popular among today's intelligentsias.
Why write about this now and not on Columbus Day when most apologists will be protesting the evils of Chistopher's spice and gold lust? Because a relative lent me Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States at a graduation party this weekend and I detected a revisionist narrative on the first page.
Except for what I suspect are the gross exaggerations symptomatic of statistical sampling's imprecision, I believe Columbus' conduct would not reflect his employer's (Spain's) wishes if it happened today. But it didn't happen today. It happened 514 years ago when slavery (of anyone) wasn't thought immoral, and if not for las Casas' shock at the number of deaths (whatever their number) we wouldn't be castigating Columbus today. But five centuries ago, Columbus' behavior did become his employer's, and other nations wouldn't have cared except for their disappointment of not having conquered the natives first and claimed the islands as their own.
This is the danger of projecting today's moral perspectives on people from times past. What they did then wasn't considered objectionable by their contemporaries. Prior to Western Culture (specifically Christians) thinking slavery was abominable and the 150 years it took to abolish the slave trade, all nations and all people traditionally (and without a second thought) made slaves of other nations and people.
Which of our own accepted and constitutionally-protected behaviors will future generations think abominable, or will they find our anxieties quaint? What will the future think of prostitution, homosexuality, underage sex, drug use, welfare, or fossil fuels, or racial preferences? I don't know if Christians were the first to believe abortion was wrong but if slavery required 150 years, a civil war, and both the British and American navies to abolish I don't expect abortion to become as unconscionable any easier.
In his book, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Thomas Sowell visits this topic in the chapter History versus Visions. Regarding Europe's invasion of the Americas and the conquest of its natives:
"But, morally, what the Europeans did was the same as what non-Europeans had been doing for thousands of years. This is not a moral justification for either. But it is an argument against the selective localization of evil.But author Howard Zinn doesn't need to limit his audience to children and teachers to find gullible audiences. There are plenty of American apologists and multi-culturalists ready to eat this stuff up.
"Against that background, it is possible to see what a gross distortion of history it is for schools to be asking American school children such questions as how they would feel if they were the indigenous American Indians being forced from their land by the westward movement of invaders from Europe.
"Indeed, Indians often joined with the European invaders to attack other Indians, in order to share in the spoils or to exact revenge for these other Indians' prior spoliation of them, including the taking of their lands and the enslavement of their people. When Cortés marched against the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, he led an army of 900 Spaniards and thousands of Indians."