The Christopher Columbus Controversy: Western Civilization vs. Primitivism, Michael Berliner

877 Words4 Pages
The controversy of whether or not Christopher Columbus should continue to be acknowledged by a federal holiday proves that his legacy has not escaped the scrutiny of history. Arguments born of both sides of the controversy stem from issues such as genocide, racism, multiculturalism, geographical land rights, and the superiority of certain cultures over others. In The Christopher Columbus Controversy: Western Civilization vs. Primitivism, Michael Berliner, Ph.D. declares that recognition of Columbus Day is well-deserved, claiming that Western civilization is superior to all other cultures and Columbus personifies this truth. On the contrary, Jack Weatherford's Examining the Reputation of Christopher Columbus equates Columbus' so-called discovery with brutal genocide and the destruction of ancient sophisticated civilizations. These articles demonstrate two extreme points of view in a manner that makes clear each authors' goals, leading the reader to consider issues of author bias, motivation, and information validity. Berliner's article, which appears in Capitalism Magazine, makes his pro-Columbus stance clear with the subtitle of his article: "Western Civilization vs. Primitivism," an obvious implication that primitivism is the only alternative to Western civilization and that all non-western cultures are primitive. He criticizes the "politically correct" for trying to "intimidate schools across the country into replacing Columbus Day celebrations with 'ethnic diversity' days" and claims that the actual target for attacks on Columbus Day is Western civilization (Berliner par. 2). Berliner insists that Western civilization (a term he considers synonymous with the federal holiday) is the "objectively superior culture" (par. 5), and that an attempt to challenge this threatens to perpetuate the racism that (according to him) is created by ethnic identity and celebration of cultural diversity. Weatherford presents the antithesis to Berliner's argument. He begins by pointing out that Christopher Columbus never set foot on the North American continent, nor did he open it to European trade: "Scandinavian Vikings already had settlements here in the eleventh century, and British fisherman probably fished the shores of Canada for decades" (Weatherford par. 2). Recognizing that apologists like Berliner are instead commemorating Columbus' discovery as the great "cultural encounter," he describes the heinous crimes against humanity that Columbus introduced to the new world. "Under [the apologist] interpretation," Weatherford contends, "Columbus becomes a sensitive genius thinking beyond his time in the passionate pursuit of knowledge and understanding"(par. 3) when actually he prompted the first wave of North American genocide, slavery, and European-style warfare.

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