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October 16, 2015

Presentism, Evil Depraved Christopher Columbus and Real Life.

Presentism should be self-explanatory. Think of it as the tunnel vision you get using a stuck or broken kaleidoscope. A broken kaleidoscope for time instead of for space. You judge long past times and human actions with conventions and values of 2015.

This week New York City criminal defense lawyer Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice wrote a blog post on the real if arguably witless controversy about continuing to observe Columbus Day given some of Christopher Columbus' predatory activities in Hispania and the New World. Ever since The Great Neutering, and in English-speaking nations in particular, some perspective-challenged white liberals--the kind of visionary folk who using a 2015 baseline would demonize uber-Virginian Robert E. Lee given his leadership of Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War--have had a big problem with Chris Columbus and his long-respected holiday.

There is apparently a name for this syndrome. Our mutual friend Stephanie West Allen, lawyer, writer, speaker and how-your-brain-works blogger who from time to time colludes with a neurologist and physician in Denver circles known only as Dr. Quaalude, introduced Scott and I both this week to a term for this historical perspective dysfunction and possibly new mental disorder: "Presentism." Presentism. As a scientific term or DSM label, granted, it's a bit goofy. But it's hands down more viable and appropriate than my past candidates brain damage and Grosse Pointe voodoo.

Presentism should be self-explanatory. Think of it as the tunnel vision you get using a stuck or broken kaleidoscope--but a broken kaleidoscope for time instead of space. Below and indented is my verbatim if imperfectly-worded comment (one of 38 Simple Justice readers have made to date) to Greenfield's able piece, entitled "Columbus Day at the Outrage Factory." I'd have spent more time polishing my comment to his post but The Twins came over unexpectedly that morning with new purchases from extremerestraints.com.

However, and not to excuse my imperfect prose, if you read Greenfield's Simple Justice piece and some of the other comments, you will get the idea. Also featured in the main Greenfield post is one Marc John Randazza, an Italian-American and respected 1st amendment lawyer who owes me $20, a case of Diet Coke and the number of a new brothel hidden away in east Georgetown. Finally, my comment to the Greenfield article:

I majored in southern American history (and later Japanese history to get a different perspective) at Duke University. I fled the Duke English department and switched majors because the history courses I had dabbled in were better, I thought, for teaching 19-year-olds how to think.

My family here in America is white European English and German. We have been in America nearly 400 years on one side and a mere 265 years on the other. All were devout Protestants or at least claimed to be.

As lowly English artisans and trades people in the New World we killed-–and were killed by, some of us dying very bad deaths–-Indians in Massachusetts. In the American south, we were at first poor German farmers and eventually owned slaves in Virginia in a number of businesses. We freed slaves voluntarily, too–-but we might not have but for a move west to Missouri by one family branch.

All-–yes all; no exceptions-–white liberal academics and political pundits in 1900 would have been considered racists and in most cases vile racists today. It would be good to expand our minds a bit. This should not be a difficult concept for bright people in 2015. Time changes what is “offensive, hurtful and wrong.” All who commented here-–yes all; no exceptions–will be regarded as racists and in most cases vile racists a hundred years from now.

(Especially Greenfield because I’m told that among other things he secretly hates and wants to exterminate all philandering WASP fucks like me and because he heard that I once said to my wife at a Jewish wedding I attended at Tavern on the Green in 1990 that “Muffy, these people really got rhythm.”)

Anyway I’ll tie my cultural horse to all of the forgoing and honor my “vicious” European ancestors in America. I’m proud of them all. They were doing the best they could with their circumstances. Their parents were different and their own ancestors were different. They were all religious people, for fuck’s sake. And they were creatures and to some extent prisoners of the mores of the time they inhabited-–just as we are now.


Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo c. 1519

Posted by JD Hull at October 16, 2015 08:14 AM


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