Last June, the city of Wilmington, Delaware cruelly removed two beautiful statues: one depicting Christopher Columbus and the other depicting Caesar Rodney. Intolerant bullies had threatened on social media to destroy the statues, and had also vandalized a memorial to police officers by hacking it with an axe and placing urine-soaked flags on it. Naturally, instead of punishing them, the city decided to give them exactly what they wanted by removing the statues so that the bullies didn’t have to.
“We cannot erase history, as painful as it may be, but we can certainly discuss history with each other and determine together what we value and what we feel is appropriate to memorialize,” Mayor Michael Purzycki said at the time. “In this period of awakening for our City, State, and country, we should be listening more to each other and building a more just City and a better America.”
I’m not sure how taking away statues makes a city more just or a country better. Having statues of a diverse collection of historical figures is a crucial part of what makes the world a good and beautiful place. Taking this away makes the world a bad and unjust place, the opposite of what the mayor said. Additionally, for everyone to determine together what to memorialize is not the right solution. Not everyone has the same values or the same opinions about who or what is appropriate to memorialize, and if consensus or popular vote is used as the method for deciding, then those with a minority view will end up having no statues that reflect their values. This is unjust and discriminatory, and is the exact opposite of listening to each other. It amounts to telling those with unpopular views, or any views that differ from those of the establishment, that they have no voice and that their feelings and perspectives do not matter.
According to the same article, Joe Sielski of a group called “It’s Time to Remove the Columbus Statue” said, “I would rather give the City the chance to have mature conversations and do this the polite way instead of just crashing in on the statue with a bunch of hammers.”
These comments are disgraceful. There is nothing “mature” or “polite” about violating the rights of other people or inflicting pain and harm, which is exactly what statue removal does. The fact that Sielski would even mention “crashing in on the statue with a bunch of hammers” as an option is beyond reprehensible. Neither the city nor a mob of protesters with hammers has the right to remove the Columbus statue or the Rodney statue, because doing so violates the rights of people who like those statues. It is horrible that a person would consider himself entitled to demand the removal of a beautiful work of art that brings joy to people’s lives, and to threaten to violently destroy it if he does not get his way. This demonstrates a complete disregard for the rights, feelings, and perspectives of others.
The events in Wilmington were in the news again recently because this month the City Council voted on a non-binding resolution about whether or not to make the statues’ removal permanent. Six members voted to permanently obliterate Columbus and Rodney, one named Nate Field bravely voted against the idea, and six simply voted “present.” Therefore, the resolution did not win majority support and did not pass.
According to local news station WDEL, Trippi Congo, the City Council President and also a bully and a bigot, “said there’s no decision to be made.” I agree with that statement, but in the opposite way that Congo meant it. Congo continued: “There’s no place for those statues in any public place in our city. They are not heroes. America has never taught true history, so I don’t think we can depend on that happening. If those statues go back up, it’s definitely going to instill mental trauma on our residents.”
These comments are absolutely infuriating. How could someone think that there is no place for a statue of Christopher Columbus or Caesar Rodney in any public place in their city? Having statues of a diverse group of historical figures is crucial for having a world that is worth living in. Therefore, Congo is demanding that the world be stripped of everything that makes life worth living. It is utterly incomprehensible that someone could consider this a good thing.
Also, how dare he state that Columbus and Rodney are not heroes? Columbus came up with a revolutionary idea all on his own and risked his life to do something that had never been done before. Rodney rode overnight through a storm to help America declare its independence from Britain, and also battled cancer. And Trippi Congo, who has never accomplished anything even remotely close to what these two men did, has the audacity, the ignorance, and the disrespect to insult them, flatly stating, as if it is obvious, that they are not heroes. Nothing could not be more wrong. Instead of recognizing these two individuals as human beings with remarkable lives and rich and interesting stories, Congo chose to flippantly condemn them merely because Columbus came to America from Europe and Rodney was born into a family that owned slaves. This is mean-spirited, ignorant, cruel, vicious, stuck-up, arrogant, bigoted, and intolerant.
As for Congo’s claim that restoring the beautiful statues would “instill mental trauma on our residents,” that statement is beyond ridiculous and demonstrates an appalling lack of empathy. Statues are not traumatic; the removal of statues is traumatic. Restoring these statues to their rightful places after they were so brutally and cruelly taken down would provide some small measure of comfort and healing to those who have been hurt. Providing comfort and healing is the opposite of trauma. Congo’s comments are a slap in the fact to me and to all people who were traumatized by the removal of the statues. He is a bully and a bigot, and his comments, like the ones I discussed above, demonstrate a complete disregard for the rights, feelings, and perspectives of other people.
In conclusion, Mayor Purzycki owes everyone who loves art and history an apology for ordering the removal of the Columbus and Rodney statues, and City Councilor Congo owes us an apology for for his appalling comments. Returning the statues to their original locations is the only acceptable outcome in this situation. Because of the recent City Council vote, there is theoretically some hope that this may happen, but due to the fact that only one councilor voted for this and six voted against it, it seems doubtful. Hearing about these terrible happenings and reading politicians’ comments about them is mentally exhausting, demoralizing, and infuriating. Existing statues must be left alone, and every statue that has been removed must be returned.