The past two and a half years have changed me. The atrocities I’ve witnessed are impossible to forget, no matter how much time goes by. Sometimes they will hit me, seemingly out of nowhere. While walking home from work, while watching a hockey or basketball or football or baseball game, or while lying in bed trying to fall asleep, I am often assaulted by images of the people I love being brutally obliterated from existence.
Last night, as is often the case, it was Christopher Columbus. Specifically the version of Christopher Columbus who used to live in Baltimore. The version of Christopher Columbus who in July of 2020 was surrounded by a mob of vicious bullies, strangled with a noose, and pulled to the ground with a sickening thud, where his beautiful stone body was smashed into four pieces. The version of Christopher Columbus whose broken, pitiful pieces were then dragged to the harbor and heaved like garbage into its waters.
There are no words in any language that are adequate to accurately describe this series of events, although I have labored for two and a half years to find them. The pain that these actions have inflicted on me is beyond description and beyond measure. The closest that I can come to describing things accurately is to say that this is an abomination. The immorality of these actions is the most severe immorality possible. Actions like this are worse than 9/11 and worse than the Holocaust. Actions like this are worse than all the atrocities and all the injustices that have ever occurred in history, combined.
Things like 9/11, or the Holocaust, only involve people being killed. To destroy a statue is far worse than this, because to destroy a statue is to kill a person who is already dead. For a living person to be killed is both sad and unjust (assuming that the person did not do anything to deserve being killed), but because everyone is mortal, the person would eventually have died anyway, just at a later date. But statues are supposed to be permanent. They are not supposed to die at all. Historical figures are supposed to be immortal, and statues are historical figures in physical form. When one kills a statue, one kills a historical figure. And killing a historical figure is far worse than killing a living person, because not only is the person’s physical body dead, but now their existence as a historical figure is dead too, their existence in people’s minds and memory. When one kills a statue, one kills a person who already died, and no person is supposed to die a second time. This second death, effected by the destruction of a historical figure’s statue or monument, is an even more complete and final form of death than the person’s original, physical death. It is therefore an even more immoral action than killing a living person, and even more harmful to its target. It is never supposed to happen.
And that is only one statue. Think about the number of statues destroyed in recent years by the Black Lives Matter movement, and you will start to realize the magnitude of the immorality that transpired.
Things like 9/11, or the Holocaust, are events that happened in history. Sad and unjust events, but events that are part of history, nonetheless. For history includes both positive and negative, both sad and happy, both just and unjust events.
Destruction of statues is not merely an event in history. Destruction of statues is the destruction of history.
Therefore, destruction of statues is not merely sad, not merely unjust.
It is an abomination.
It is not supposed to happen.
It is wrong.
When a living person is killed, one can always have an imaginary world, in which the person survives, is healed, is comforted. One can always picture the person in happier circumstances, the wrong righted, or the perpetrators punished. But when a historical figure is killed, one cannot do that. I know, because for almost my entire life, I have had an imaginary world inhabited by historical figures. Thanks to the abominations of 2020 to the present, my imaginary world has been destroyed. Many nights, I try to think about Christopher, to bring him to life in my imaginary world. I try to picture him somehow overcoming the vicious attacks, being pieced back together, being healed, being comforted, regaining his strength, and eventually triumphing over the brutal bullies who fought to stamp out his existence. But my attempts are futile. There can be no overcoming, no triumph, because what the Baltimore people did was just so vicious, so cruel, and so brutal, the destruction of Christopher so final and so complete. A positive resolution would be possible in the imaginary world if Christopher had merely been killed, but that’s not what happened. Christopher was killed after having already died. And not just once, in Baltimore, but dozens of times, in dozens of cities all over the world. Christopher was killed in the most vicious, cruel, and brutal ways, again and again and again, when he could do absolutely nothing to defend himself. Killing a historical figure in statue form is simply the meanest action imaginable, because it completely destroys the person, not just in the real world, but also in the imaginary one.
That is the nature of an abomination. It doesn’t only wreak destruction in the real world. It reaches into the imaginary world and destroys that, too.
Police did nothing to stop the bullies from murdering Christopher. Nor did they do anything to arrest them, or charge them with any crimes. The mayor neglected to condemn the bullies, or even to criticize them in any way. Leaders of the Italian American community in Baltimore, those who should have been fighting most fiercely on Christopher’s behalf, stated that they did not wish the perpetrators to be punished. Instead, they agreed to reward the perpetrators, and to inflict yet further harm on Christopher, by removing his name from the piazza where he was murdered and renaming it the “Piazza Little Italy.”
The reaction, or lack thereof, from those who are supposed to enforce justice and protect people’s rights, only adds to the magnitude of the abomination.
The nature of an abomination is that it contaminates everything around it. Obviously, I hate the perpetrators of this abomination. I hate them as fiercely as it is possibly to hate anyone or anything. I also hate the city of Baltimore itself. Hearing or seeing the city’s name is enough to fill me with a sinking feeling of revulsion and disgust. I hate the state of Maryland. I hate the Baltimore Orioles and the Baltimore Ravens. I hate the Preakness Stakes, and I hate Pimlico race course. On bad days, I hate the Triple Crown, because the Preakness is part of it, and even horse racing in its entirety. On really bad days, I hate every person who is from Maryland or who has ever lived there. For example, I might think of the fact that Katie Ledecky is from Bethesda, Maryland, which causes me to hate swimming, and by extension, to hate the Olympics.
Because of the abomination that happened in Baltimore, it is difficult for me to sleep, it is difficult for me to be awake, and it is difficult for me to continue existing in this world. I am filled with shame and revulsion at the thought that I am a citizen of the same country where such an abomination happened. The same country in which a mayor, a police force, a governor, a president, a congress, the Italian American community, and the population as a whole have decided that this abomination is perfectly fine, that it does not merit any type of condemnation or criticism. That Christopher’s life, apparently, does not matter, because he is not black.
My hatred for the perpetrators of this abomination is so strong that I yearn to rip them limb from limb, to strangle them, to drown them. I wish for them to experience what Christopher did, when they so brutally murdered him. I wish for them to be tortured to death, and I would gladly be the one to carry it out. Failing that, I wish myself to die. Because I cannot live if doing so means living on the same planet, and being part of the same species, as the people who did this. Because one planet does not seem big enough for both me and the Baltimore people to coexist.
I cannot live in a society that has decided that the appropriate response to an abomination is to rename the very piazza where it occurred in order to better accommodate the preferences of its perpetrators.
I will never, ever forget, and I will never, ever forgive what the people (and I use that term loosely) in Baltimore did to Christopher Columbus. What they did is despicable. It destroyed my entire world and created an abomination in the universe that contaminates everything in its vicinity.
They do not hold the moral high ground.