Monday, November 17, 2014

Suck on it Leif Erikson!

Have you ever heard of Recep Tayyip Erdogan? You haven't? Really? He's the President of Turkey, but you might remember him as the disappointing hologram we discussed back in January. Well he's back, and making wild claims about just who discovered America.
Above: The President of Turkey.*
"Um...hello? Guys? Remember me?"
-Leif Erikson, circa 1000 A.D.
At a conference with Latin American Muslim leaders in Istanbul, he claimed that not only did Muslim sailors reach the new world as early as 1178, but that Islam was widespread in the Americas 300 years later when noted explorer and disease vector, Christopher Columbus rolled up. Balderdash, right? Well, yes, of course it is. Erdogan's evidence is a widely discredited claim that Columbus spotted a mosque on a mountaintop in what is now Cuba, but whatever, he was probably just playing to his audience. People love to feel connected to historical events, even if there aren't facts or evidence to back them up. 

Pictured: The pained expression of a man
whose worldview has been challenged.
There've been a few other claims of pre-Columbian expeditions from the 'old world' to the 'new world,' but if any of them are true, nobody's found any solid evidence yet. Until that happens, these claims fall into the category of 'History Channel Bullshit.' Still, what if one pans out someday? Like what if someone digs up some South American ruins and finds a minaret or a Quran, how awesome would that be? Not just because it would be another fascinating chapter in the story of human exploration, but because people like Bill O'Reilly and Pat Robertson would absolutely lose their shit. 

Ok, so Erdogan's spouting junk archeology, what's the big deal? Columbus fans have been clinging to their bullshit story of him discovering the new world for ages. 
"For the last time you be-pantalooned
idiot, you didn't discover shit. We live here."

-The Arawak 
That's better. It brightens up the room and
you can hardly contemplate the horror.
The problem is that both narratives kind of paint the Americas as an uncivilized no-man's land until either the Christians or the Muslims showed up with their superior ideas and pants and led the natives into the light. It's this paint job that helps make the centuries of murder and robbery that followed less horrible to contemplate, which is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. When it stops being about history, and starts being about ownership you get shit like imperialism and genocide. It's a short walk from 'I saw it first!' to 'That's mine!'

Yeah, so while it's totally important to investigate every historical instance of contact between the old world and the Americas, it's also important to keep in mind the civilizations that already existed here and the people whose ancestors crossed a frozen land bridge and fought sabertooth goddamn tigers to build them. 
Yeah, I said Sabertooth Goddamn Tigers.

*sorry. I do apologize for that one, and to be clear: no, I'm not better than that.

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