bookmark_borderBoston City Councilors on preserving public art

Boston City Council President Kim Janey had some interesting comments on public art this week, after a mural called “Roxbury Love” was destroyed during the process of building a new housing complex.

“There was a missed opportunity in terms of residents being able to come and say goodbye to the mural,” Janey said. Although Cruz Companies, which is building the complex, had told the city that the mural would need to be demolished and is considering incorporating elements of the mural into the building, citizens did not know ahead of time that it would be demolished on that particular day. Even the mural’s creator, Deme5, said in an Instagram post that he was saddened at the loss and would have appreciated a heads up about the demolition.

Janey called on her fellow council members to discuss “strategies for ensuring intentionality when it comes to preserving murals and public art.” She expressed admiration for the murals that she grew up around in Roxbury and the South End during the 1970s and 1980s. “It was an important part of what it meant to live in the community that I lived in,” she said. Another city councilor, Liz Breadon, described public art as “a wonderful, vibrant expression of the community that lives in that place.”

I wholeheartedly agree with these comments. Art is an essential part of the identity of a place. But when reading them, I can’t help but think of the beautiful statues across the country that have been destroyed by mobs or taken down by local governments. These statues were just as crucial to the identity of their communities as the Roxbury mural was, and their removal just as damaging. Rampaging, politically correct protesters have also deprived people of the opportunity to say goodbye to beloved works of art, as have cowardly public officials who have ordered statues removed under cover of night. Boston’s Italian-American community did not get the chance to say farewell to the statue of Christopher Columbus that was brutally beheaded by a despicable excuse for a human being. Richmond residents who are proud of their Southern heritage weren’t able to bid adieu to the magnificent statues of Confederate generals that Mayor Levar Stoney abruptly ordered removed. So while I completely share the sentiments of these city councilors with respect to the importance of preserving public art, the same consideration needs to be extended to all works of art, not only those that happen to be favored by the political establishment.

bookmark_borderNo, Christopher Columbus Park is not “dedicated to white supremacy”

After the horrific attack on the Christopher Columbus statue in Boston, representatives from the United American Indians of New England, North American Indian Center of Boston, Indigenous Peoples Day MA, and New Democracy Coalition held a press conference near the site where the statue used to be. The purpose of the press conference was apparently to insult the statue and by extension, the Italian-American community. 

“For 500 years plus, Black and indigenous people have endured a campaign of state violence,” complained Jean-Luc Pierite, president of the North American Indian Center of Boston, without providing any explanation of what he means by this or any evidence that it is true.

“It’s a park dedicated to white supremacy; it’s a park dedicated to indigenous genocide,” said Mahtowin Munro of United American Indians of NE and IndigenousPeoplesDayMA.org. “The messaging is clear with the statue here that this is an area where white people are welcome, but where our people are not welcome. So we’ve been asking for years that this statue come down and that Columbus be no longer celebrated.”

“This statue needs to be permanently removed,” said Kevin Peterson, founder of the New Democracy Coalition. “It is an insult to Native American people, it is an insult to the very idea of democracy. We demand that this statue be removed and that it is never seen again.” 

These comments are so deeply wrong – morally, philosophically, and intellectually – that it is difficult to determine which statement is the most preposterous.

First of all, Christopher Columbus Park is not dedicated to white supremacy or indigenous genocide. That is not even remotely close to being true, and it makes absolutely no sense that anyone would say or think that. Christopher Columbus Park is dedicated to…. Christopher Columbus. It might be true that Columbus was a white supremacist (as was pretty much every single person in the 15th century) and it could be argued that his actions amounted to genocide (although that is highly debatable), but to equate Columbus with white supremacy and genocide, as if those are his only two attributes, is ridiculous. Columbus was a person. He had many different qualities, both positive and negative, and did many different things over the course of his life. Discovering an entirely new continent, which Europeans did not know about before, was a pretty significant achievement. Was he perfect? No. Did he treat indigenous people in the best possible way? No. But it is wrong to claim that honoring Columbus is the same thing as honoring white supremacy and indigenous genocide. 

Equally preposterous is the claim that “the messaging is clear” that only white people are welcome in Columbus Park and not indigenous or black people. There is no messaging that only white people are welcome in Columbus Park. People of all races are welcome there. That should not even need to be explained. As far as I know, no one has ever said, suggested, or implied in any way that only white people are welcome in the park. I walk through the park frequently and see people of all races, ages, and genders hanging out there. If you do not feel comfortable in the park, that is your own problem. If you hate Christopher Columbus so much that you are unwilling to set foot in a park that bears his name, that is your choice. No one did anything to make you feel unwelcome.

The contention that the statue is an insult to Native American people and to the idea of democracy is also false. How can a statue be an insult to someone? There is no historical figure that is liked and admired by all people. For any statue, there are going to be some people who like it and some people who don’t. If you believe that Columbus’s treatment of indigenous people outweighs his positive attributes, then you are probably not a fan of his statue. That is fine. But that does not mean the statue’s existence is an insult to you. There are numerous historical figures that I dislike. For example, I don’t like Hubert Humphrey because he sponsored the Durham-Humphrey Amendment, and I don’t like General Richard Sherman because of the atrocities he committed against the South during the Civil War. But I don’t claim that statues depicting them are an insult to me, nor do I demand that those statues be removed.

As for the demand that the Columbus statue be permanently removed, that is not only unreasonable but demonstrates true bigotry and intolerance. What right do you have to demand that a statue be removed, never to be seen again? Different people have different values, preferences, and opinions about which attributes are admirable in a historical figure and how the different attributes should be weighed. Therefore, different people will come to different conclusions about which historical figures deserve to be honored with statues. Yet the speakers at this press conference are arguing that their opinions, and only their opinions, should determine which statues are allowed to exist and which are not. What makes their opinions more important than other people’s opinions? They are demonstrating not one iota of consideration for those who admire Columbus and cherish the statue.

The criticisms of the statue and the demands to remove it are even more offensive when one takes into account the fact that Columbus was from Italy (he was born in Genoa, which was not part of Italy at the time but is now), and his statue and park are located at the southern edge of the North End, the Italian part of Boston. Columbus was essentially the first Italian-American. To many Italian-Americans today, his accomplishments are a source of pride. His statue represents the Italian-American community and symbolically welcomes Bostonians and visitors to the North End. It is disturbing that someone would equate celebrating Italian-American heritage with white supremacy. Not only do the people who spoke at the press conference consider the existence of anything they dislike to be a personal insult to them, but they apparently believe that their culture is the only one that deserves to be honored and celebrated. Not only do they believe they have a right to order the removal of any statue they dislike, but they believe they have a right to obliterate a symbol of Italian heritage from Boston’s Italian neighborhood. Go ahead and celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day if you want to. Put up statues of notable indigenous people from history. But you do not get to tell other people to stop celebrating Columbus Day, and you do not get to take away the Columbus statue from those who cherish and appreciate it.

The only good thing to occur during the anti-Columbus press conference was that, according to Boston.com, a resident of the North End shouted his objections to removing the statue, at times drowning the speakers out. Good for him.

Munro, naturally, complained that this was emblematic of how indigenous people have allegedly been silenced for centuries. “We will not allow ourselves to be silenced anymore,” she said.

News flash: you have never been silenced. You and your fellow speakers at the press conference are the ones who are trying to silence any views that differ from yours. You are demanding that a beautiful statue be removed because you personally do not like it. You are demanding that other people stop celebrating a historical figure because you personally do not admire him. You are acting as if your views and preferences are the only ones that matter. How dare you gather at the site of a statue that has just been brutally beheaded and rub salt into the wounds of those who love the statue and the Italian heritage that it stands for? You are the ones who are truly being racist, discriminatory, and intolerant. 

bookmark_borderChristopher Columbus statue destroyed in despicable act of bigotry

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In a despicable and disgraceful act of bigotry, someone beheaded the statue of Christopher Columbus in Boston.

Every time I hear about a statue of a historical figure being vandalized, torn down, or otherwise damaged, my blood boils and my soul aches. I love history and I love statues. I believe that a historical figure does not need to be perfect to deserve having a statue in his or her honor. I believe that it is important for a nation to have a wide variety of statues representing a range of different ideologies and viewpoints. I believe that destroying a statue is one of the most morally repugnant actions a person could do. But this one really hits home. To me, this statue is not just any statue. It is a statue that I know well and have a particular affinity for.

This statue stood in Christopher Columbus Park, on the edge of the North End, the Italian neighborhood of Boston. My office is near the statue, and before the Covid-19 apocalypse hit, I walked by it nearly every day during my lunch-time walk. Christopher Columbus Park is beautiful. It has an elegant trellis, colorful flowers of various kinds, and a view of Boston Harbor. The statue has always been the focal point, overlooking the grass, flowers, and water from his pedestal in the center of the park. The fact that someone could see this statue and decide that it would be a good idea to rip his head off is completely incomprehensible and disgusting.

Additionally, I find this act of destruction to be particularly reprehensible because I am half Italian-American. Christopher Columbus was not perfect. But he is a symbol of Italian-American pride. It is no coincidence that his statue stands at the entrance to the North End, welcoming Bostonians and visitors to the Italian part of Boston. The destruction of the Christopher Columbus statue is an act of hate against Italian-Americans. I consider it to be an attack on me personally, as well as all who share my ethnicity.

In his comments today, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh failed to take a strong enough stance against this act of destruction and bigotry. “We don’t condone any vandalism here in the city of Boston, and that needs to stop,” he said. Walsh mentioned that the Columbus statue has been vandalized twice before in 2006 and 2015. He also added, “Given the conversations that we’re certainly having right now in our city of Boston and throughout the country, we’re also going to take time to assess the historic meaning of the statue.”

In other words, because the statue has been repeatedly targeted by vandals, he is considering getting rid of it permanently. This somewhat contradicts his statement that he does not condone vandalism. Removing the statue permanently is exactly what the vandals want and are attempting to accomplish through their acts of vandalism. Giving in to the demands of the vandals would essentially be condoning what they are doing. It would also be an act of cowardice. I hope that Walsh stands up for the Italian-American community and all people who value true diversity, as opposed to caving to the bullies who believe that only politically-correct views deserve to be expressed and that some lives matter more than others.

The excuse for a human being who did this should be found, arrested, and punished to the fullest extent of the law. This is a hate crime and should be prosecuted as such. The Christopher Columbus statue needs to be repaired and restored to his rightful place, with a round-the-clock armed security guard protecting him at all times. The excuse for a human being who did this reprehensible deed should be made to pay for the repairs, as well as for the security detail. This excuse for a human being should be sentenced to as many years in prison as possible, and when he or she is released (hopefully never), statues of Christopher Columbus should be erected all over his or her neighborhood so that he or she is forced to look at Christopher Columbus at all times for the rest of his or her miserable life.

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bookmark_borderShots from a nearly deserted Boston in the era of COVID-19

Despite the governor’s and president’s advice for everyone to stay home whenever possible, I decided today to venture into Boston. Here are some shots of the nearly (but not completely) deserted city.

A few pedestrians were scattered along Boylston Street.

Customers had to wait in line before being allowed inside Trader Joe’s.

Not many shoppers were around on Newbury Street.

The lagoon was looking sad at Boston Public Garden.

Beacon Street was empty except for this bicyclist.

Another view of Beacon Street.

A deserted Canal Street.

No tourists at Quincy Market for these two musicians to play for.

One of the few Boston institutions operating as usual (albeit somewhat less crowded) – Haymarket!

bookmark_borderRed Sox Parade of Champions 2018

Today the Red Sox and their fans took to the streets of Boston to celebrate their outstanding, 119-win season and World Series victory. Before tens of thousands of cheering, sign-waving, beer-throwing fans, the rolling rally inched its way from Fenway Park, down Boylston Street, past the Boston Common, to City Hall plaza, spewing confetti in its wake. Check out my photos of the celebration below:

Pedro Martinez proudly holds the 2004 World Series trophy

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