Down with Christopher Columbus?

I am struggling to understand the leftist/BLM animus against Christopher Columbus.  I understand their animus against Confederate generals.  They hate these generals because they fought to defend the South’s “peculiar institution” – i.e., slavery.

Though I understand this anti-CSA animus, I don’t sympathize with it.  Why not?  Perhaps because of my Catholic upbringing, which taught me that I should detest my own sins more than the sins of others, especially more than the sins of people who last committed those sins more than 150 years ago.

I wonder how many Catholics go to confession and say, “Bless me, father.  While I have no recent sins of my own, it would be remiss of me not to tell you about the many sins committed by General Robert E. Lee.”  And I wonder how many priests respond by saying, “For your penance, tear down three Confederate monuments.”

Tearing down CSA statues, it seems to me, is little more than a very weird kind of virtue-signaling.  All the same, although I don’t much approve of the practice, I understand it, for I live in a nation that has in recent times abounded in virtue-signalers.  The USA kills nearly a million unborn babies per year, but our nation is fortunate in that most pro-abortion folks are exceptionally virtuous persons.  I know this because they tell me so.

The CSA statues are part of the last great compromise regarding slavery and the Union.

– The first such compromise was made at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the compromise that allowed slaves to be counted as two-thirds of a person for purposes of calculating representation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

–  The second was the Missouri Compromise of 1820.

– The third was the Compromise of 1850.

– The fourth was the more or less informal compromise that was gradually arrived at in the fifteen or so years following the Civil War (let’s call it the Compromise of 1880).

Now, this last item was, of course, unjust to black Southerners, most of them recently emancipated slaves.  But practically speaking, it was the best that could be accomplished at the time if the nation were to re-Americanize the recently de-Americanized South.

The Union was restored in time to deal in a more-or-less united way with the 20th century – a century of two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Cold War.  Blacks continued to be treated unfairly for at least the first two-thirds of the 20th century (until Jim Crow-ism was essentially demolished by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965), but that was a price that had to be paid for a strong American Union.

*Goodbye, Columbus

Scant as is my sympathy for tearing down Confederate statues, far more scant is my sympathy for getting rid of Christopher Columbus.  Columbus was one of the great figures in the history of the human race, an adventurer who contributed enormously to the progress of humankind.  His critics seem to think that it would have been much better for all concerned if America had been discovered by the president of the ACLU.

His critics denigrate his greatness by pointing out that if Columbus had not discovered America, it would have been discovered by somebody else. In an age of exploration, the New World could not long have remained hidden.  That’s like denigrating the accomplishments of Isaac Newton by arguing that if Newton had become a farmer instead of a mathematician somebody else would have discovered the law of universal gravitation.

Columbus is a symbol, and I’m convinced that by hating the symbol our leftist neo-barbarians (what else can I call them?) are hating what he symbolizes.  And what is it he symbolizes?  At least two things: the virtue of courage, and western civilization.

Was there ever a more courageous man than Columbus?  Perhaps, but not many.  In recent decades, courage has not been greatly admired by our moral pacesetters.  For courage is an especially manly virtue (just as chastity used to be an especially womanly virtue – before young women were liberated from the awful burdens imposed on them by Christianity), and therefore courage carries with it an aroma of “toxic masculinity.”

Men who come out as gay, and women who come out as lesbian, and persons who come out as bisexual, and above all persons who come out as transgender – people like this may be called courageous.  But Columbus?  A model of toxic masculinity.

And western civilization, a civilization based on the heritage of Greece and Rome and Israel – what is it?  It’s a “civilization” of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, Sinophobia, Indophobia, Aztecophobia, Islamophobia, and a number of other awful things, including a narrow-minded prejudice in favor of rationality.

Away with the infamous thing!  A few decades ago we began by getting rid of college courses in “Western Civ,” and we downgraded the status of such dreadful “white” writers as Plato, Dante, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy.  The time has now arrived to get rid of the thing itself named western civilization.

It’s not just that the neo-barbarians are at the gates; they have been there for many years.  Now they are inside the gates.  Indeed, they and their fellow travelers seem to have seized control of the city.  They are building a new civilization based on atheism and a hatred of humanity.  The latter follows logically from the former.  For if you get rid of God, you won’t need to pay much respect to a humanity that is made in the image and likeness of God.


*Image: The statue of Columbus in front of City Hall in Columbus, Ohio being taken down on July 1, 2020 to be placed in storage [Doral Chenoweth/ColumbusDispatch]. The statue was sculpted by Edoardo Alfieri and presented by the citizens of Genoa, Italy to the people of Columbus in 1955.

In situ, 1955-2020


David Carlin is a retired professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America, Three Sexual Revolutions: Catholic, Protestant, Atheist, and most recently Atheistic Humanism, the Democratic Party, and the Catholic Church.