This is not about Christopher Columbus – at least not directly so. All I ever needed to know about the “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” I’ve learned from Robert Royal’s Columbus and the Crisis of the West. (If you haven’t already purchased a copy signed by the author, click here.)
No, this is (partly) about my hometown, Columbus, Ohio, a city well-known these days for two reasons: as the home of The Ohio State University Buckeyes football team; and for the city’s ingratitude to the people of Genoa, Italy.
I’ve nothing to say about my beloved Buckeyes, whose COVID-delayed season begins a week from this coming Saturday, nothing except: Go Bucks!
But about the dreadful ignorance, avidity, and cowardice of the city’s current government, I have plenty to unpack. I apologize in advance for any lack of Christian charity in what I’m about to write.
I’ll begin at the beginning: October 12, 1955. That was when Edoardo Alfieri’s statue of the world’s greatest sailor was unveiled in Columbus, a gift from the people of Genoa, Columbus, Ohio’s first “sister city.” Sister cities were an initiative of President Eisenhower, and the Columbus-Genoa union was among the first to engage in Ike’s “citizen diplomacy” – a lovely outgrowth of the ugly realities of WWII. You’d think, maybe, the current mayor of Columbus, a Democrat named Andrew Ginther, might have thought a bit more diplomatically and historically before surrendering to the leftist mob, which he did in July by removing the statue from outside City Hall.
“For many people,” Mr. Ginter said, “the statue represents patriarchy, oppression and divisiveness. That does not represent our great city, and we will no longer live in the shadow of our ugly past.” Patriarchy? I’m guessing not “many” people agree and that few were consulted.
In ‘55 the gift reminded us of the one given to New York 70 years earlier by the people of France: The Statue of Liberty.
Of course, Columbus, Ohio is just one of thirty-five or so localities in which vandals have toppled a statue of the Admiral. Some of the vandals were “protestors” and some were “politicians,” but the result is the same. Of interest to readers of Italian heritage are the surnames of nineteen sculptors of “canceled” Columbus memorials:
Polizzi, and, of course,
the aforementioned Alfieri
Another of the statues removed was by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who was not Italian but French. He created a bold and beautiful statue of Columbus for Providence, R.I., but you may know him best from another of his monuments: the aforementioned Statue of Liberty. No doubt that will one day topple too, once our new iconoclasts fulfill their Orwellian dreams and declare “Liberty is Slavery!”
And as Bob Royal wrote here recently about the actual history (“Lying for Justice”):
Professional historians know that Columbus was not a “genocidal maniac” or, of course, “worse than Hitler,” which generations of schoolchildren have now been taught. He also was not a modern anthropologist or social justice warrior. And if that’s all that will keep a past figure from being “canceled,” then none will survive – or many of us still alive.
Or, as Hamlet says to the odious Polonius after the old schemer has said he’ll treat the Players newly come to Elsinore “after their just desert”:
God’s bodykins, man, much better: use every man
after his desert, and who should ‘scape whipping?
Use them after your own honour and dignity: the less
they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty.
To me, this was the Catholic Shakespeare making practical application of Matthew 7:1-2: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”
Christopher Columbus isn’t the only target of mob rage. Many Civil War-era statues have been knocked down, beheaded, or removed from their previous pedestals. In 2019 and 2020 hundreds of such acts of vandalism have occurred. The Wikipedians say this about their list of desecrated Columbus monuments: “Several statues of Christopher Columbus. . .have been removed because of his enslavement of and systemic violence against the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, including the genocide of the Taíno people.”***
There is no citation to bolster the assertion of genocide. Not for nothing does Wikidom wink at its hyper-politicized content under WIKIPEDIA MAKES NO GUARANTEE OF VALIDITY: “Please be advised that nothing found here has necessarily been reviewed by people with the expertise required to provide you with complete, accurate or reliable information.” We are assured, though, that this is “not to say that you will not find valuable and accurate information in Wikipedia. . .However, Wikipedia cannot guarantee the validity of the information found here.”
But note: in the Wikipedia entry for “Taíno” there is no mention of genocide. That entry does note that the sharp decline in population among the Taíno was overwhelmingly the result of “epidemic disease (smallpox, influenza, measles, and typhus).” This suggests we should be toppling monuments to the Variolae and the Orthomyxoviridae, to Measles morbillivirus and Rickettsia prowazekii – the various viruses and bacteria to which the Spanish were adapted but were novel (and devastating) to the Taíno.
But it was not the intention of any 15th-century Europeans to spread those diseases in the Americas, any more than it was the intention of the Taíno to infect Europe with bacteria of the genus Treponema.
Okay, there are no monuments to all those nasties except the various drugs used to treat them, and I assume we want to keep those.
Here’s the thing: I’m an educated guy and, therefore, literate, and all the information above was easily discovered by me in a couple of hours of looking online. I was curious, you see. Isn’t it a shame that Mayor Andrew Ginther of Columbus, Ohio is content to be a complacent stooge?
* Edoardo Alfieri with Columbus Mayor Maynard E. “Jack” Sensenbrenner, a Democrat, before the statue’s installation in 1955 [Columbus Dispatch file photo]
** The statue of Columbus being taken down on July 1, 2020 to be placed in storage [Doral Chenoweth/Columbus Dispatch]
***UPDATE: Note too this from a recent article in Discovery: “When European colonialists first arrived in what is now the Americas, the diseases they brought wiped out an estimated 90 percent of Indigenous people across North, Central and South America.“