This Columbus Day, October 11, we should expect the now accustomed fury over any commemoration of the European “discovery” of America. Misinformation now seems always to accompany any celebration on this date—as if history must be puerile melodrama rather than tragedy—and as if in childish fashion we are to count up the importation a half-millennium ago of European pathologies—infectious diseases, zealous religious proselytizing, or African chattel slavery—versus New World payback like the gift of toxic tobacco, cocaine, and, more controversially, perhaps syphilis.
More seriously, October 11 always reminds also us of a number of contemporary disconnects. A castigated America’s much-caricatured government, and economic and social traditions, are the products of the political and philosophical heritage of the now reviled European Enlightenment. And yet, the United States