Byline: Stephen Goode, INSIGHT
In his book, The Enemies of Christopher Columbus, Thomas A. Bowden takes on those who smear the name of the great man who discovered America. He also levels his aim at the enemies of Western civilization and its values, the bigger target that Bowden believes enemies of Columbus want to shoot down along with the explorer.
The book is subtitled Answers to Critical Questions About the Spread of Western Civilization, and in its closely argued pages Bowden traduces political correctness by arguing that Western civilization is superior to other civilizations and that other cultures would do well to emulate the West and adopt its values. Bowden is neither a racist nor a cultural imperialist. He simply argues reason is the West's core belief and that the use of reason in Western history has made life easier, more comfortable and more worthwhile than in any other place or time.
He thinks any civilization could have developed a similar attitude toward reason but none did. Even so, he argues, all peoples would do well to follow the West's lead in the use of reason to govern all aspects of life.
Bowden began his research on Columbus in 1992, when he noticed that the man's enemies were springing up everywhere. Demonstrators carried signs declaring that "Columbus murdered a continent." They threw fake blood on Columbus statues. The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, ever eager to join a left-wing fad, called on the United States to pursue "a year of reflection and
repentance" because Columbus inaugurated an era of "invasion, genocide, slavery ... and the exploitation of the wealth of the land."
Bowden was dismayed. He believed then, and argues in his book now, that Columbus' achievements are worth celebrating. He writes that twisting the meaning of the great deeds of the man distorts American history itself and leads to failure to understand what this country truly is about.
He writes that the refutation of Columbus' critics is of utmost importance. "The chief purpose of this book is to warn that the enemies of Christopher Columbus are serious," Bowden writes early on in Enemies, "and that the ideas they endorse, if not refuted and rejected, will end in the death of science, the destruction of the cities and the impoverishment of the human race."
Insight: What made you decide to write The Enemies of Christopher Columbus?
Thomas A. Bowden: The news reports of the protests in the months before the 1992 celebration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America. The enemies of Columbus made it very clear that for them Columbus represented everything they hated about America. I wrote a pamphlet defending him and distributed it to campus Ayn Rand clubs. It got to them barely in time for the anniversary and I had in mind to expand the pamphlet. I knew the information to do so was out there and wanted to take a sabbatical to work on it. That was a pipe dream. But then came the Internet and online selling and publishing, and with that technology the project became much more feasible.
The attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, gave new urgency to the book in my mind. Those attacks on New York City and Washington were attacks on our civilization and our way of life. It became necessary once more to examine and to understand why our civilization is great and worth defending.
It was Western values and achievements that the enemies of Columbus denounced and attacked relentlessly. But it also is those achievements natural law, self-responsibility, property rights, the scientific method and reason that have made life so much better for everyone.
Those are ideas that Columbus brought West. Somehow we've lost the ability to celebrate the coming of Western civilization to America, and to be thankful for it. In fact the enemies of Columbus have been getting away with saying that it is a very bad thing that he came along. …