Pat Buchanan: Must West beg world for forgiveness?
As the Democratic Party quarrels over reparations for slavery, a new and related issue has arisen, raised by the president of Mexico.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has written Pope Francis and King Felipe VI to demand their apologies for the Spanish conquest of Mexico that began 500 years ago with the “invasion” of Hernando Cortez.
Arriving on the Gulf Coast in 1519, Cortes marched in two years to what is today’s Mexico City to impose Spanish rule, the Spanish language and culture, and the Catholic faith upon the indigenous peoples.
“There were massacres and oppression. The so-called conquest was waged with the sword and the cross. They built their churches on top of the temples,” wrote Lopez Obrador.
Now no one denies that great sins and crimes were committed. But are not the Mexican people far better off because the Spanish came and overthrew the Aztec Empire?
Did not 300 years of Spanish rule and replacement of Mexico’s pagan cults with the Catholic faith lead to enormous advances for its civilization and human rights?
Or is there never a justification for one nation to invade another, conquer its people, impose its rule, and uproot and replace its culture and civilization? Is “cultural genocide” always a crime against humanity, even if the uprooted culture countenanced human sacrifice?
Are all civilizations and cultures equal, or are some more equal than others? Are some superior?
Before recent decades, most Americans were taught to believe the West stood above all other civilizations, and America was its supreme manifestation. And much of the world seemed to agree.
As for the assertion that all civilizations and cultures are equal, that is an ideological statement. But where is the historic, scientific or empirical evidence to support that proposition? How many people really believe that?
Alberto Rivera, leader of the Spanish right Ciudadanos, called Lopez Obrador’s demand “an intolerable offense to the Spanish people.”
Rafael Hernando of the Popular Party dismissed it with contempt: “We Spaniards went there (to Mexico) and ended the power of tribes that assassinated their neighbors with cruelty and fury.”
Behind this demand for an apology from Spain and the Church is a view of history familiar to Americans, and rooted in clashing concepts about who we are — and were.
Have the Western peoples who conquered and changed much of the world been, on balance, a blessing to mankind or a curse? Is the history of the West, though replete with the failings of all civilizations, not unique in the greatness of what it produced?
Or are the West’s crimes of imperialism, colonialism, genocide, racism, slavery and maltreatment of minorities of color so sweeping, hateful and shameful they cancel out the good done?
As we see the monuments and memorials to the great men of our past desecrated and dragged down, the verdict among a slice of our intellectual and cultural elites is already in. Thumbs down. They agree with the moral shakedown artist of Mexico City.
Query: Can peoples who are ashamed of their nation’s past do great things in its future? Or is a deep-seated national guilt, such as that which afflicts many Germans today, a permanent incapacitating feature of a nation’s existence?
Pat Buchanan is author of “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.”