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Christopher Columbus "Christ Bearer"

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Newt Gingrich View Drop Down

Joined: Oct 10 2007
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    Posted: Oct 10 2007 at 11:02am

A happy coincidence of scheduling found Callista and me in Italy on Columbus Day weekend, the birthplace nation of Christopher Columbus. He was from Genoa, and we were in Venice -- but as we discovered, Columbus' Italy is filled with a history that Americans value.

Perhaps no one was more aptly named than Columbus. Christopher (literally "Christ Bearer") is the name taken from the saint who is to millions of Catholics the patron saint of travelers. And a traveler he was. Centuries before the sexton and other navigation tool, Columbus ventured to find for Spain a westward and competing route to spice-rich India. A great navigator, he was not. He ended up finding the Western Hemisphere instead.

So maybe he wasn't a great navigator, but he was an extraordinary mariner and certainly one of the most important explorers. Up until recently, Columbus had enjoyed a prominent place in American history. But because of the left's ongoing historical revisionism of Western civilization, Columbus has become a fashionable target of ridicule. The elites like to paint Columbus as nothing more than someone who spread disease, inflicted genocide and destroyed the native civilizations of the New World.

But if these elites learned historic fact instead of historic spin, they would know that Columbus brought with him to the West a set of habits and ideas that helped lay the foundation for American greatness. (Then again, perhaps herein lies the reason for the left's attack on Columbus: They find these American traits unacceptable.)

Venice offers a new perspective and a re-affirmation of the values that built America: the power of entrepreneurship, the creativity of the human mind and the necessity of a national defense.

Proof was all around us.

What follows are my notes from our tour of this extraordinary city of water. They are offered this Columbus Day week as a lesson in perspective and humility and as a reminder of all that we have built as Americans -- and all we have to lose.

Art and Beauty, Brought to You by Prosperity and Power

What first struck me as Callista and I toured Venice and listened to our remarkably informed guide, Alessandro Giannatasio, was the comparative depth and richness of the Republic of Venice and the lessons it offered for America.

Venice is an ancient city whose very architecture testifies to its history. Keep in mind that the average house in Venice is more than 500 years old -- not the oldest house, the average house.

Which means most of Venice's homes were built during the 1,100 years that Venice was a republic -- from around 697 until another Italian descendent (later a French general turned emperor), Napolon Bonaparte, a Corsican (Corsica was then part of the Republic of Genoa), ended it in 1797.

Venice is famous for its art and beauty, of course. But few take the time to understand what made this possible.

Here was a city-state dedicated to creating jobs and prosperity and, as a consequence, seeking enough military power to protect its wealth. It acquired military power through technological and organizational superiority in a manner every American should be able to identify with. Then, having become one of the three or four wealthiest cities in the world (by 1450 there were 250,000 people in Venice itself and, at its peak, 3.5 million people in the Republic of Venice), Venetians began to invest their wealth in art and music and great churches.

If you visit Venice and tour the churches, schools and museums remember that Titian, Tintoretto and the other remarkable artists were supported by the accumulated prosperity of a thousand years of business effort and careful defensive preparations.

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