I mentioned in my last post that we just got back from Spain. While we were there, I posted a photo of a statue of Columbus meeting with his financial backer, Queen Isabelle of Aragon, in the city of Granada. Granada was the last Moorish holdout, the site of the incredible Alhambra palace, the seat of power of Moorish Caliphates for far longer than Spain has (even still) been a country. In fact, the overthrow of Boabdil in Granada occurred in January of 1492, the same year that Isabelle and Ferdinand agreed to fund Columbus’ westward trip to India. Before that date, Spain as we know it didn’t exist as a single country; it had comprised of four different kingdoms with different rulers, cultures, and languages.
Hearing about history while in another country always adds nuance and depth that we can’t get when we only see it from the perspective of the American narrative we learned growing up. There has been a lot of public discussion in Spain about the controversial nature of Columbus, the millions of people who died as a result of his contact with the New World, whether he was a good leader or not, and how much he should be lauded or reviled.
I also posted a photo of a painting we saw in the Alcazar in Sevilla, the first painting that included Native Americans. The painting is also considered to be the most accurate rendition of blond-haired, broad shouldered Columbus. It was painted soon after his life, and his son agreed it was a good likeness of him. In the painting, the Virgin of the Navigators, the Virgin Mary oversees her subjects. Her cloak covers the seas, the continents, the Spanish royal family, the explorers (including Columbus), and the newly converted natives who huddle together behind the Europeans. The guide pointed out that whether this protection actually extended to the natives was certainly questionable, and that Columbus’ status and reputation were never recovered when his brutality against the Spanish colonists, and to a lesser extent, the natives, was revealed back in Spain. As a result, he was brought back to Spain in chains and faced charges for crimes. He was pardoned for his crimes, but also stripped of his titles, and they were never restored to him. These facts are well known in Spain, although the 48-page report detailing the original investigation into his crimes were only discovered in 2005 in a state archive in Valladolid.
Regardless this fascinating / horrifying information, most Americans are generally aware of the problematic nature of Columbus, even if it wasn’t what was taught in school (best rundown of such can be found at The Oatmeal). For example, it is widely known that native populations were decimated by contact with Europeans, introducing such fatal diseases as smallpox. According to the records in Spain’s archives, there were approximately three million natives who were either killed directly or indirectly by this contact with the Spaniards. In response to the modern charge that Columbus committed genocide of natives, one contemporary Spanish defense was that he didn’t intend to kill the natives because he meant to enslave them, so . . . if they had just gone along with that, nothing bad would have happened to them (except being slaves perhaps). The painting refers to the idea that he intended to convert them to Christianity, a Spanish defensive narrative that occurred in the century following Columbus’ conquest of the Americas, and that dominated for centuries afterward. The notion that the so-called discovery of the New World was beneficial to natives in bringing them Christian conversion is, you’ll doubtless recognize, the same justification found in the Book of Mormon.
And I looked and beheld a man among the gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many water; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.
—1 Nephi 13:12
Many Church leaders have opined about the “divine inspiration” of Columbus, but none quite so imaginatively as Spencer Kimball:
In 1950, Elder Spencer W. Kimball testified that God “inspired a little boy, Christopher Columbus, to stand on the quays in Genoa, Italy, and yearn for the sea. He was filled with the desire to sail the seas, and he fulfilled a great prophecy made long, long ago that this land, chosen above all other lands, should be discovered. And so when he was mature, opportunity was granted to him to brave the unknown seas, to find this land . . . and to open the door, as it were”
Let’s get real. This vision of Columbus as a boy who wanted to sail is pure invention, a fanciful idea based on someone’s wishful thinking, a notion driven by an uncritical view of the goodness of European adventurers bringing a new culture into a foreign land, a view that their invasive culture and aims were more valuable than those of the native people, that they were providing something more valuable than what they were taking.
Imagine my surprise when a Facebook comment by a former fellow ward member asked where this information about Columbus being tried for his crimes during his lifetime had come from. I replied that it was apparently fairly common knowledge in Spain where it had happened; that he was stripped of his titles was a matter of public record, and his appeals were well known. The ignominy was a sore point for him, one that haunted him the rest of his life, and he and his son worked hard, in vain, to restore the family reputation. This commenter had completed her public education in Mexico, and she had not been taught this (nor had I, in the US). Our American school narratives (and that of the Book of Mormon) seemed to be a byproduct of the Euro-centric version of events in which God inspired Columbus to bring Christianity to the natives, overlooking the price the natives paid for this contact and the greed and ruthlessness that actually fuelled Spain’s efforts. The version of history we’ve been taught sides with the colonists (or conquerors) rather than the natives, which is also what the Book of Mormon does, even though it purports to be a book from the perspective of the natives. The natives are better off being conquered because it will restore them to Christianity and make them white again, no longer indolent and idolatrous.
Another of my favorite podcasts is The Rest is History, featuring British historians Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook. Earlier this year they did a podcast about the British Empire which started with a fantastic quote about empirialism. In his Flashman novels by George MacDonald Fraser, anti-hero Sir Harry Flashman explains the martial success of the British Empire on the following basis rather than the standard heroic narrative:
“Presence of mind, if you like, and countless other things, greed and Christianity, decency and villainy, policy and lunacy, deep design and blind chance, pride and trade, blunder and curiosity, passion, ignorance, chivalry and expediency, honest pursuit of right, and determination to keep the bloody frogs  out.” 
Flashman is one of those great characters who say terrible but true things that are so awful they make you laugh with their dark humor. Another example of his wit that casts light on the so-called “virtues” of conquest:
“Some human faults are military virtues, like stupidity, and arrogance, and narrow-mindedness.”
Fraser also said something valuable about those who prefer myth to history:
“I think little of people who will deny their history because it doesn’t present the picture they would like.”
In the podcast, the historians point out that Flashman has been “cancelled” by those who dislike the character’s expressed racist views (and his frequent sexual assaults), although those are clearly being presented as an indictment of imperialist Victorian ideals. Santhnam Sanghera, the author of Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain, who is also a fan of Flashman, is interviewed in the podcast. When asked about the modern trend to expose historical narrative, he explains that we can’t see empire as “good” or “bad”:
When you say you’re proud of imperial history, what does that mean? You’re proud of slavery? You’re proud of abolition?
. . . [One colleague]called me a couple years ago and said “We need to teach the crimes of empire.” I’ve got no time for that. Then [another colleague] was saying, “We’ve got to teach the glories of the empire.” I’ve got no time for that. The only way to teach this stuff is by nuance and not to make it a balance sheet thing. It’s really hard to get away from that.
The Flashman series takes the idea of myth-making seriously, even if it also recognizes that those myths are basically full of crap. It’s full of crap in a way that matters to people.
People don’t like to have their myths challenged and generally dislike people who do. You can say they are backward, benighted, or provincial if you want to. You can also say that they understand there is often a difference between facts and truth. Historians, for quite a while now, have been dealing in a lot of one, and increasingly little of the other. So a large section of the public, both left and right, don’t trust historians.
The messages of Fraser’s Flashman Papers series are two-fold, contradictory, and both valid: on the one hand, don’t believe the myths of history, and on the other, the myths of history are important.
As the above article points out, myths cohere communities, sometimes for good, sometimes for ill. It brings us together in the wake of 9/11 or Parkland. Christianity and Islam both carry myths that bring people together. Mormonism is no exception to this. But by the same token, the German myths about Jews led to the Holocaust, and the myth of the “Lost Cause” fueled white Southerners’ inability to get past the Civil War.
I’ve mentioned several times before a post done by Carter Hall years ago on the now defunct Mormon Matters blog, about the difference between Superman and Spiderman as myth-making tropes. In the Superman mindset, our heroes must be godlike and perfect; any criticism of them will rebound on the critic because they are impenetrable and utterly deserving of our full loyalty. In a Spiderman mindset, our heroes have to make mistakes and be growing into a heroism that doesn’t quite fit. They have girl trouble, can’t keep a job, make moral blunders, and get acne. Not only are they allowed to be fully human, but their humanity is why we root for them; we can relate to them. It’s OK to discuss their failures as well as their strengths, to question their motives and their collateral damage. That’s where the value lies. That’s where the lessons of history can be found. Unfortunately, we don’t do that very well in the Church: the curriculum doesn’t do it, most of the members don’t question it or know what they are talking about, and the leaders often discourage taking a hard look at our history because there’s a lot of bad stuff in there that rightly erodes confidence in leaders. This seems to be a conservative trait, as we are hearing about in the war on “critical race theory” which is apparently broadly defined as anything that questions the heroic myth-building that’s baked into our curriculum. Some of the conservative curricula are so bad that home school texts refer to slavery as the “African migration.” But our Church curriculum is often not much better.
Whenever Columbus (or any other valorized historical figure) comes under fire the argument is immediately trotted out that he was just a product of his time and everyone was the same back then. First, no, he wasn’t just like everyone else, mostly because he had opportunity to do so much damage and give his worst impulses full rein (as can be said of all powerful people), and his actions were bad enough that he was stripped of his titles. This was done because his contemporaries complained about him and investigated him; they didn’t see him as a perfect hero. He was brought back to Spain in chains by his contemporaries, not by croc-wearing, hot dog eaters of our own time (h/t JCS). But I will also point out what The Oatmeal did, that a contemporary of Columbus went to the New World as a conqueror and instead became a humanitarian, fighting for the rights of the natives (freeing his own slaves and becoming a priest in the process). That man was Bartolome de las Casas, known among Spaniards as “The Defender of the Indians.”
- What myths do you see as important to the Church? Which ones have negative effects?
- How could we improve the curriculum at Church to deal with facts that contradict our heroic narratives?
- What lessons are we failing to learn from history by preferring white-washed myths?
- Should Columbus be cancelled? If so, what does that entail? If not, how should we teach about Columbus?
- Is the Book of Mormon’s pro-Columbus prophecy problematic? Why or why not?
 That’s the French to non-Brits.
 Fraser also originated another charming villain in his novels, a name familiar to our regular commenters: John Charity Spring.
Without spoiling much of the plot itself, John Charity Spring (a fictional British sea captain) is a delightful villain in a book about villains, a murderous, insane, cultivated, educated and hilariously ignorant sea devil who is quick to administer stern moral lectures (and quotations from Ovid and Vergil), flogging innocents a minute later – and then visiting church and having tea with his accordion-playing wife in heart-melting harmony.
 He mentions that in writing he has a hard time not using “we” for the British because that is where he has lived his whole life, although those who dislike his anti-colonialist views see him as “other” and he’s been told to “go back to where he came from,” which is England. He has learned that this is something people say to him rather than to other authors on this subject sheerly as a matter of race.
 Although let’s not undersell the idea that as a wealthy man, he was targeted as a means to take some of that personal plundered wealth away from him and keep it for Spain.
 After a brief detour into suggesting African slaves as a better alternative to native slaves.
 In the words of The Oatmeal:
“But Columbus Day is an American tradition!” – Some ignorant, white man from Bumretch, Nebrahoma
A really interesting additional fact about Columbus was his exploitation of his Jewish navigator and how Columbus appropriated and took credit for his work.
That exploitation tosses another wrinkle in the entire story as the navigator does seem inspired.
Another interesting part of the story is Columbus’s use of a Jewish translator who died when the first colony was wiped out for atrocities, but who opposed the atrocities.
(There are also a number of fanciful stories told about the translator, but the bare bones truth is more interesting).
The Columbus story has more depth and layers and a few failed heroes as well as the character we all think we know. Nuance is so important as well as realizing some people really are villains.
Modern LDS approaches are still a mix of seeing Columbus as saint and sinner. President Hinckley’s son became a huge Columbus fan while serving as mission president in Spain, and wrote this book which he lectures about: https://deseretbook.com/p/christopher-columbus-clark-b-hinckley-92853?variant_id=188140-paperback and https://universe.byu.edu/2019/08/22/education-week-why-columbus-matters/
Good post. One of the most important, and therefore most damaging, myths of the church is one to which your post alludes: American exceptionalism. The church is certainly not unique in its embrace of that notion, but its embrace of that notion is uniquely problematic for a number of reasons. Both the Book of Mormon and a Mormon view of history offer a way not only to minimize/ erase the genocide of indigenous peoples by claiming that God wanted this country so that Joseph Smith could establish the “true” church in it (it couldn’t have been done anywhere else? Really?) and therefore any sacrifice/consequence that occurred as a result of building America was worth it, but a Mormon view of history also permits excusing/minimizing the absolutely horrific things that are the result of said history. I wonder, for example, if there could ever be a discussion in a Mormon Sunday school lesson about the continued disenfranchisement of a number of marginalized populations in this country being the direct result of indigenous extermination, slavery, etc. Or if there could ever be a discussion about why God would permit such immense suffering merely so that the Smith family would be in the exact area that would allow them proximity to the buried plates. God couldn’t have moved the plates somewhere else?
There are a number of ways to improve church curriculum, but none of them would ever be instituted because to contradict such an established prevailing (and false) narrative of particularly American history would lead to more members walking out the door. The church has made its decisions regarding history and truth and has decided to continue to whitewash much of it in order to maintain its faithful membership. That’s the kind of accounting that the church does and so far it’s worked, but it’s working less and less effectively all of the time and it’s not unreasonable to expect that a tipping point will be reached once the church begins experiencing a net loss of membership (we’re almost there now).
No, I don’t think Columbus should be canceled. I don’t think anything should be canceled. We need to know the truth of history and people as much as we can and then we need to contextualize said truth. Wishing unpleasant things away is what a three year old does. A grown up understands the brutal, unpleasant aspects of human nature, behavior, and history and enlarges their understanding of people and history by acknowledging and learning what happened and why. We shouldn’t make Columbus and other colonizers go away (though we certainly should not lionize them and name holidays after them); we should learn from them and their behavior and their ideology and their historical period in order to prevent such atrocities from happening again (not that we’re doing great at that, either).
The saints just successfully saved the Manti Temple murals which include Native Americans (in a Plains Indian Headdress) and conquistadors. What do the murals represent? Contention and a fallen world or glorification and the BOM passage?
Well, all of the myths are important to the church. They’re the skeleton that holds up the corpus of belief. And all of them have negative effects to the extent that they deviate from a verifiable revealed truth, which is probably part of the definition of myth, so problems.
What do you do, for example, with a society that believes less and less in magical, supernatural events? My thoughts always go to the angel with a flaming sword. (I’m still stunned that the church essay on plural marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo mentions this sans hint of irony.) This is a preposterous tale, certainly because it beggars belief that God would remove the prophet of the restoration because he failed to embrace a hoary cultural practice mentioned sparingly in the Old Testament and never touched on in the New. This myth doesn’t hold an ounce of water, and along with the rest of the crap that undergirds polygamy will eventually have to give way.
What lessons has the church failed to learn by embracing whitewashed myths? Some basic ones, namely that some human beings have a sixth sense for deception and will turn over heaven and earth to reveal the truth when they smell BS. The chickens always come home to roost. Always.
No, lets not cancel anything–not Columbus, Robert E. Lee, or anyone else. Let’s just avoid the hagiography and tell the truth by including the experiences of all involved.
BTW, Angela, I learned a surprising amount of Spanish history in this one rather brief post. Very informative. Thanks.
jaredsbrother: The flaming sword story not only whiffs of crap, but it’s phallic as all get out, particularly when used to convince someone that sleeping with other women is divinely mandated. It’s hard to even read that account with a straight face. Unfortunately, most super-churchy folks lack the requisite dirty mind to avoid these types of blunders as we frequently see in things like posters at BYU about dress code telling women to get “on your knees” in reference to how long their skirts are (but it sure sounds like something else).
In elementary school we had to do a musical celebrating Columbus. There was no nuance whatsoever, mostly it was about how brave Columbus was for not believing he’d
sail off the edge of the earth, and reading this post has got some of the lyrics stuck in my head:
“They say the world’s flat
It looks just like a hat
Upon which you sat
They say no! Don’t go! Don’t go – they say no!”
Yes, a real Hamilton precursor!
The worst part was that several of us girls had to sing a solo that included the words “when Christopher Columbus was a little boy like me, he had a very special wish – it was to sail the sea! Columbus, Columbus, a little boy like me – he had a very special wish, it was to sail the sea.”
Since we were all girls we asked the teacher if we could use the word “child” instead of “girl.” She wouldn’t let us and instead we had to dress as boys and sing. I guess too audacious to think girls might also have dreams. Still mad about that, obviously.
“[The angel with the flaming sword] is a preposterous tale, certainly because it beggars belief that God would remove the prophet of the restoration because he failed to embrace a hoary cultural practice mentioned sparingly in the Old Testament and never touched on in the New.”
Not to mention the disproportion if the angel appeared to order Joseph to take multiple wives (for about 40 years or the blinking of an eternal eye) but didn’t think interfering with the Holocaust, or any subsequent human event, was worth note.
OTOH, perhaps there’s a lesson in the fact that the angel hasn’t much minded gay Americans having an equal right to marriage.
jaredsbrother: There’s a podcast I occasionally listen to that you might enjoy called Rough Translation. They discuss various cultural things, news stories, etc, from the perspective of another country. Some of these are very interesting. It’s one of the things I love about travel, hearing a different perspective on something familiar.
When we were in Vietnam years ago, I found it fascinating that they called it the American War, which of course they did! We went to see the Ku Chi Tunnels where the N. Koreans hid underground in the jungle to evade the American troops, and there was an introductory film. After sending us in to the film, our tour guide came running in to verify that we were Australians, not Americans. When we said that we were Americans, he said we should skip the film which was very anti-American and might upset us. I said we were fine to see anti-American propoganda, and we weren’t exactly invested in defending the Vietnam war! The only thing that grated was the fact that Australians were getting a pass when they too voluntarily participated in the war. Another tourist in our group was Australian and he kept grumbling loudly about “g–d— Americans!” the whole time. Buddy, your countrymen were there too. Settle down with the moral superiority!
I was just think about this yesterday; the idea frequently spoken of that the United States was the only country where the Church could have been restored because of its religious freedom. First of all, it’s hard to believe there was no other country on Earth that had “the right stuff.” Second, the Saints basically experienced a pogrom and had to flee the country to start their own! Not a very convincing myth.
Who’s to say that Nephi’s vision wasn’t of Bartolome de las Casas?
Really interesting Angela. I also went to Spain on my mission and so have retained a lingering interest in learning its history. Do you happen to know of any good books that touch on the Colombus and Spain?
DB published a book a few years ago about Columbus’s “inspired” journey. It was written by Clark Hinkley. I don’t think I will be reading it. I have too many Native American friends, including neighbors. DB need to sharpen its selection and editorial policies.
Off topic, but because sometimes when we want to tell the “real” history we really only tell the other side of it, rather than a new, more nuanced view:
* Columbus was bringing death with him regardless of intent in the form of disease. Every European was doing so. From an epidemiological point of view, it does not matter whether the European goal for Native Americans was malignant or charitable–they were bringing disease that would decimate the indigenous population either way. I don’t offer that as an apology for colonialism, but just as a reality of the situation. Stories about small-pox blankets being tossed into camps are troubling in the extreme, but they don’t mute the fact that the die was almost entirely cast the day the Europeans arrived in large numbers.
* Columbus really did do all the things he’s accused of vis-a-vis the Native Americans. But it’s also inarguable that the trial in Spain was just for show. The truth is that the people who came after him thought they could run things better (i.e., find more gold and riches for Spain) and needed an excuse to get him out. And the crown in Spain no longer liked the deal they brokered in 1491 giving Columbus such enormous spoils, since they didn’t know how big a find he was making. So they got him out of his position on cruelty charges and he sailed back in shame. Predictably, once Columbus was relieved from duty, conditions for the indigenous got much worse, not better–which is hard to believe given Columbus’s indifference to aboriginal life–and no similar charges were brought against his successors. And then the Spanish crown let him continue making trips back again, so it’s hard to say they were really that mortified.
In sum, Columbus is the poster boy for European colonialism. When we thought that was a good thing, he was the hero. In the last half-century or so, we’ve decided colonialism was a very bad thing, and now he’s the goat. But he’s only one in a long line of problematic colonialists.
Thanks, Angela. The podcast sounds very interesting. You know, I’ve heard more than a few stories about the Australians getting a bit irritable about the Americans. It’s weird. We ran into bunches of them in Turkey to honor the war dead for Anzac Day and they were, almost to a person, simply too drunk to honor anything. I guess we’re antagonistic cousins in some ways, but I don’t know why. Maybe Geoff-Aus can explain.
Many years ago I heard McNamara speak on his mea culpa tour promoting In Retrospect and it was somewhat heartbreaking. As the only one of the best and brightest to actually try and figure out (at least publicly) what went wrong in Vietnam, he made a return trip and met with former Viet Cong officers to discuss the war. Only then (stunningly) did he understand that, per your experience, the Vietnamese just viewed the Americans as the most recent in a long and continuing line of invading imperial powers. They would have fought the Chinese with the same cunning and energy, even while McNamara and others were buying into the now discredited domino theory. Learning these lessons well after the fact is disheartening, but I fear we really don’t learn them at all, as the two-decade folly in Afghanistan would suggest.
Personally I’d love it if we, as a society, could retire the word “cancel.” Its meaning, like that of “critical race theory,” has become so politicized that what the speaker intends by it and what the listener hears are increasingly disjunct. Nobody knows what you mean when you say the word “cancel” unless you explain yourself in more detail.
So, should we cancel Columbus? If by cancel you mean—never talk about him again (which no one is advocating for as far as I know)—then no. But if by cancel you mean—re-examine his representation in school and church curricula, give his holiday to someone more deserving, and move his statues to museums—then yes.
I’d recommend reading both the books ‘1491’ and ‘1493’ by Charles C. Mann. They both give a very detailed and fresh look at what the New World was like before Columbus came and then after. There certainly was not a monolithic culture of ‘Indians’ that Columbus encountered. For example, the Caribs were a particularly brutal and cannibalistic tribe whose defeat by Columbus and company was celebrated by other non-Carib tribes because it meant their people would not be eaten anymore! From what I understand, Columbus’ biggest fault or weakness was that he was a terrible administrator. He was an explorer at heart and didn’t really know how to govern. Give him a break.
There is another set of myths born centuries before Columbus that strongly motivated European explorers funded by Iberian kingdoms: the Crusades. Since 711, Muslims had been populating and taking control of the Iberian Peninsula. At their zenith, Muslims gained control of almost the entire peninsula, with Christians holding out in the north. The Muslims were greatly more tolerant toward non-Muslims than the Christians, after they gained full control of Iberia in 1492, were. They allowed Christian and Jewish churches and synagogues to be built and maintained. They granted them the freedom to trade and to keep a good portion of their wealth. The Mozarabic language, a Romance language infused with Arabic, grew to be used. During the centuries under Muslim rule, many Christians, as well as popes, promoted the idea that they were entitled to the land by virtue of their religious affiliation. The Muslims were occupying Christian land, and it was Christian duty to purge them of that land, or force them to convert to Christianity and renounce Islam. In the Near East, the Crusades, commencing in 1095, were about occupying land that Christians believed they were entitled to because it was mentioned in the Bible. Crusader states emerged in Aleppo, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Cilicia for a brief period before being taken back by Muslim rulers. Crusaders waged war on Eastern Christians as well. The sense of entitlement and superiority for Western Europe was built long ago on these ideas of Crusades, still seen as positive in Western culture today, and no doubt motivated Columbus and his henchmen to occupy, enslave, and destroy. Columbus was winning India for the West and thwarting the Moors/Muslims in so doing. Columbus saw himself as on a Crusade. He believed himself to be fulfilling a religious duty, as did other Western European explorers before and after him.
It is somewhat ironic how much people have celebrated Columbus in the US considering the fact that he never set foot on what is today part of the US. I think this is due in part to the sentiment of Christian entitlement and superiority expressed by earlier church leaders and in the Book of Mormon itself. Christians were always entitled to the Americas, so goes the belief. Celebrating Columbus is celebrating that ethos.
The spirit of the Crusade lives on. It was present in Joseph Smith’s time and present in Mormondom to this day. This is beginning to be reversed, however, and I believe it is due partly to the fact that the church membership is more diverse. The membership simply isn’t as white-northern-European-descended as it used to be. Many new members celebrate different ancestors, ones that whites are not used to celebrating. It is a welcome change.
John W: Yes, the mujedar history was literally my favorite part of the Spain trip! We spent most of our time in Andalusia which was under Muslim rule much longer than it’s been under Catholic rule. We met some friends for dinner, and they had pretty much the same attitude I was developing, that Spain was much better under Muslim rule than under Catholic rule. The Catholics were highly intolerant and violent toward non-Catholics. The Muslims respected other religions, and while they didn’t give them preference, they allowed them to coexist and didn’t set their adherents on fire in the town square. There were so many works of art from the early Catholic reign of Muslims being killed by Christians that it was unsettling, especially the religious art in actual places of worship with black people full of arrows or under the hooves of someone’s horse. It’s like if we were lauding the Mountain Meadows Massacre in our chapels. Unsettling.
I accessed the website
Saw the title of this posting
Figured it was more revisionist history
Said to myself “Probably from Hawkgrrrl”
Saw that I was correct
Gave this comment and prepared to exit
And felt much better for it
Mark Gibson Gibson: OK, boomer.
I did not think I would get involved in a post about Columbus, but somehow Vietnam got in. Yes Australia joined America in the vietnam war, as it has in Afganistan. We had the same experience with the film in vietnam, were asked if we were Americans or Australian.
Presumably the reason the Vietnamese asked if you were Americans is that they have had Americans get upset when America is criticized, but not Australians. We are perhaps more willing to accept criticism. America is easier to criticize. It is bigger and more in your face. I was not involved in the vietnam war, but I understand an American camp was a much more luxurious affair than the other allies who lived much more like the locals. Americans brought a piece of America a put it where they were they were.
There was a US base where I served my mission. On a couple of occasions I was taken there. It was like an American town, there was no evidence that we were in another country. No cultural awareness.
I am ashamed that Australians in Turkey were drunk. They weren’t just a bit more laid back? I was not in Turkey at Anzac time, did not see drunk Ausies when I was there.
When you tour India you are shown mosques, forts, and Indian culture, like the Taj Mahal.
3 cultures, 3 periods of history.
La sagrada familia was the most impressive thing we saw in Spain, though my grandsons thought the Barcelona football club was good.
As to why America is not universally loved. Olympics as an example. Is Australia likely to beat America in the medal count? Never. Is anyone? Are the Americans gracious winners, or loosers? Although America had the biggest team, they had inflatable clappers, so not only capable of having most spectators, but drowning out others. Every team had masks, but USA had bane masks, or dog masks, as well. Its a bit like having a big brother, some times you like him, some times you resent him, but unlike a brother, you will never grow up to then beat him. Some victories in some events.
This blog is partly about imperialism. America is a cultural imperialist. Most films, TV , pop stars, and theatre come from US, or UK, we have some anti maskers, get their garbage from American sites, our church. We have very few American cars (just jeeps), but my mercedes is made in usa, though designed in Germany.
We have a pact that we will each defend the other, which is why we were in Vietnam, Korea, and Afganistan. But if we were invaded by say Indonesia, or China, would America come to our aid if it didn’t benifit them?
Geoff-Aus: Feel no shame for your inebriated countrymen on holiday. I regret making a flippant remark about an isolated experience in that it seemed to lump all Australians into one highball glass. It’s not a fair characterization, even if I made it inadvertently.
I agree with many of your characterizations of how Americans are perceived in the world. The unfortunate truth about international relations is that nature abhors a vacuum. I’d rather have us making decisions that impact the globe than the Chinese or the Russians, but that doesn’t mean the American government doesn’t make decisions regularly that are selfish, short sighted and hubristic.
Angela, I wish you would quit berating boomers. I’m a boomer and don’t fit your mold. I least I hope I don’t.
Roger must be a sensitive boomer. 🙂
The BOM verse about the Spirit moving Columbus to conquer the Americas is part of a larger narrative about the ¨sacred¨ history of Nephi and his peoples (which we would likely interpret today as all of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, whether or not they have significant DNA from the Old World). Much of the Isaiah quoted by Nephi deals directly with the Conquest. 2 Nephi 20 puts Columbus into a different class entirely , versus the usual BOM narrative provided by the orthodox. In this chapter the Assyrians could be interpreted as the conquistadores (Spanish or English speaking). In this interpretation the Assyrians are the “rod of mine anger” (v5). So the bad boys are doing the Lords work “against a hypocritical nation” (v6), presumably the folks about to the conquered. The gist of the story in chapter 5 is that the Lord permits the bad guys to do his work, but that does not necessarily mean they are inspired people. V15: “Shall the ax boast itself against him that heweth therewith?” Columbus was an ax!
So the fact that the Spirit moved Columbus definitely does not mean that Columbus was some kind of inspired saint. The conquest of the Americas was a brutal and bloody affair, no doubt about it. And Columbus had a bloody sword and bloody hands.
This chapter and others at least resolve the issue of Columbus as inspired explorer. But we are still left with a pretty wrathful God executing his judgement against a society gone astray. I don’t have any kind of resolution for that!
But according to the BOM, the “remnant”, or the survivors of the conquest, come out ahead in the end. For example, see 3rd Nephi 20:16:
16 Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
Sounds like some kind of a Reconquista to me!