bookmark_borderIdentity, representation, and fairness

“They’re just statues.”

“They’re not alive.”

“How can you get so upset about an inanimate object?”

More times than I can count, I have been asked these questions. 

To me, statues are a matter of identity. I love Christopher Columbus, and I love the generals who fought for the Confederacy. But even more importantly, I see these people as myself. When I see a statue of Columbus or someone from the Confederacy, I feel that the statue essentially is me. Not literally, of course, but symbolically and spiritually. When I see such a statue, it makes me feel represented. It makes me feel included. It makes me feel that people like me are welcome and accepted in our society.

That is why it has been so incredibly hurtful, traumatizing, and devastating to see Columbus statues and Confederate statues being violently destroyed across the country and world. The symbols of my inclusion and acceptance in society have been hacked to pieces with sledgehammers, smashed on the ground, beheaded, thrown into harbors, set on fire, and had nooses tightened around their necks. How do you think that would make someone feel?

Additionally, how do you think it would feel to see the people who are supposed to be in charge in our society – mayors, governors, senators, congresspeople, the president – react not with unequivocal condemnation but with ambivalence? How do you think it would feel to read statement after statement saying something like, “destroying property isn’t the best way to make one’s point, but the protesters’ feelings are completely understandable”?

And how do you think it makes me feel to read about analogous situations involving other cultures’ statues and monuments – the vandalism of a George Floyd sculpture in New York City, for example – and to see politicians react with exactly the harsh condemnation that they withheld when it was my statues being destroyed?

In short, it makes me feel persecuted. If there were just one or two isolated acts of vandalism targeting people like me, that would be sickening and infuriating, but tolerable. But when these acts are a consistent pattern, happening again and again all over the country and in other countries as well, the pain becomes so horrible that life is no longer worth living. These actions are just as hurtful as if these violent attacks were done to me. And our government, whose job it is to protect people’s rights and to ensure that justice is done, did nothing. In many cases, governments actually took actions that benefitted, rewarded, and/or publicly honored the perpetrators. Companies, sports teams, organizations, almost without exception did nothing. Or, worse, they chose to publicly express support not for the people who have been hurt, but for the movement that committed the hurtful actions. 

The question that occupies my mind every second of every minute of every hour of every day is this: How can I continue to exist in a world where all of the institutions that make up our society hate people like me? How can I live a happy life in a society that consistently, pervasively, and repeatedly sends the message that people like me are not welcome here?

I have been going to a therapist to try and figure out the answers to these questions. My therapist once explained to me that every person has the right to hold whatever ideas they wish in their internal world, but problems arise when people try to impose their ideas on the external world. In other words, I can enjoy my historical figures, and even consider them my friends, in my internal world, regardless of what happens to their likenesses in the external world. It is understandably upsetting, she told me, to see the statues destroyed, but it’s not the case that my rights were violated, because I don’t have a right, per se, to see the historical figures from my internal world reflected in the external one. 

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and have come to the conclusion that if there were no statues and monuments at all, no holidays honoring individuals or groups, and no places named after historical figures, then I would agree with what my therapist said. But the problem is that there are statues, holidays, and place names for some historical figures and not others. Some people get to see their internal world reflected in the external world, while I do not. This disparate treatment is unfair and unjust. Therefore, I do believe that my rights have been violated. 

I will soon be getting a statue of Stonewall Jackson to put up outside my house. My therapist thinks this is a good idea, because although the statue will technically be part of the external world, he will be located on my own property, and therefore will enable me to honor a person that I love and identify with, without the dangers inherent in having a statue on public land.

Don’t get me wrong – I am very happy and excited to get my Stonewall statue. But the thing is, I shouldn’t have to. 

I shouldn’t have to pay $3,000 to erect a small statue that actually represents me, while other people get to have large statues, located on public land and paid for with government funds, of the people that they identify with. Those who identify with Abraham Lincoln, or George Washington, or Paul Revere, or Martin Luther King, Jr. do not have to pay to erect their own personal statues. While other groups get to have their internal world reflected in the external one through public art, the art that represents my identity is banished from public spaces and relegated to my own backyard. I think it is awesome that organizations such as Monuments Across Dixie and campaigns such as Lee Rides Again are raising money to build statues on privately-owned land. But when you think about it, they should not have to do this. People like me deserve to be publicly acknowledged as welcome and accepted members of society just as much as anyone else does.

In conclusion, while there is certainly something to be said for focusing on one’s internal world, I’m not sure that this is sufficient in cases where one is not merely failing to get one’s way, but actually being discriminated against and treated unjustly. Giving up on the real world, and withdrawing into the imaginary one, reflects a disturbingly bleak view of the world and its future. Unfortunately, this might be my only option given that the real world has decided to persecute and discriminate against people like me. 

One final note: You might ask why I identify so strongly with Columbus and Confederate people. Why are statues of these particular people necessary for me to feel represented and included? I am a woman, so many people might think I should feel represented by the Boston Women’s Memorial, featuring statues of various women from history. I am on the autism spectrum, so many people might think it would make me feel included when Autism Acceptance Month is celebrated every April. Many people also make the argument that Columbus Day and Columbus statues are unnecessary because there are numerous historical figures other than Christopher Columbus whom Italian Americans could choose to represent us. But although I find the Women’s Memorial beautiful and creative, I appreciate that there is a month honoring autistic people, and I wouldn’t mind the addition of more Italian American statues, none of these things move me emotionally. None of them resonate with me. None of them make me feel represented or included. I feel a spiritual and emotional connection with Columbus and with people from the Confederacy. Perhaps this is because they are considered rebels and underdogs; perhaps it is because they were quirky and different; perhaps it is because they are misunderstood and looked down upon. Just as people cannot be expected to provide a logical justification for being straight, or gay, or bisexual, my identity cannot be reduced to arguments or reasoning. The bottom line is that each individual person has the right to decide what types of statues, monuments, and holidays represent them. No one has the right to impose their ideas of representation on anyone else.

bookmark_borderStatues and the soul

In the approximately two years since our society collectively decided to destroy the statues honoring the historical figures that I love, it has been difficult to put the way that I feel into words. The destruction of these statues has been, by far, the most painful thing that has ever happened to me. I feel, more strongly than I have ever felt anything in my life, that this destruction is wrong. But it is hard to form a logical argument that explains why this is so. 

“They’re just statues,” people point out. “They aren’t alive. It’s not as if anyone has been killed.” I have been ridiculed for being so upset at the statue destruction. I have been called a racist and a white supremacist. Even those who agree with me that the taking down of Christopher Columbus statues and Confederate statues is wrong do not feel as strongly about this as I do. They don’t understand why these statues are so important to me that without them, I feel that the world is no longer worth living in.

I recently read an article in Psychology Today about the spirit and the soul. The article explains that what animates the soul varies from person to person: art, music, organized religion, or watching children learn and grow, to give just a few examples. The author, Bill Kavanagh, characterizes religion and spirituality as “the deepest values and meanings by which to live” or “one’s own inner dimension” or “connecting to an energy outside of oneself.” Once you discover the thing that speaks to your soul, you have found meaning and purpose.

For me, historical figures are that thing. They touch my soul. They capture my imagination. They fill me with emotion. The desire to honor them guides everything that I do. And by extension, statues of historical figures touch my soul as well. That is why their existence is so important to me, and that is why their destruction is so devastating.

Everyone’s soul is touched, or moved, by different things. If your soul isn’t moved by a statue of Christopher Columbus surrounded by flowers and a trellis near the waterfront, you probably won’t understand why I feel that the entire city is ruined with that statue gone. You won’t understand why I feel sick to my stomach and overwhelmed with grief and rage when thinking about the fact that someone intentionally ripped the statue’s head from his body and smashed it on the ground. You won’t understand why replacing the statue with a monument to a different Italian American historical figure does not even come close to being an acceptable solution. 

Because everyone’s soul is moved by different things, everyone has incredibly different ideas of which things are important in life and which things are unimportant. If the things that provide you with meaning and purpose are your children, career, pets, friends, or religion, you will find it difficult, if not impossible, to relate to my grief and rage about statues. You will find it difficult to wrap your head around why the destruction of statues is so upsetting and painful. Similarly, there are numerous situations in which a certain thing provides someone else with meaning and purpose, and I have difficulty relating to the fact that someone’s soul could be so moved by something that I consider unimportant. 

Perhaps the spirit and the soul explain why people feel so strongly that the statues that make my life worth living should be destroyed. Perhaps the statues’ existence threatens something that other people’s souls depend on for meaning and purpose, in a way that I cannot relate to because I do not share. 

But I believe that what moves my soul, what provides me with meaning and purpose, is just as important as what provides these things to other people. My viewpoint is just as valid and just as important as anyone else’s. I believe that it is never okay to destroy the thing that moves another person’s soul. Whatever problems the world faces, we must find solutions that do not crush anyone’s soul into dust, the way that the brutal war on statues has done to mine. You might not consider Christopher Columbus or people from the Confederacy to be important, but I do. Your soul might not be moved by these historical figures, but mine is. Your soul is different from mine, but that does not give you the right to ridicule me, inflict pain on me, or dismiss my perspective.

bookmark_borderThanksgiving thoughts

It has been a dark and demoralizing couple of years. The things that I value most – individual rights, liberty, history, tolerance, and diversity – have been under attack in various ways across the country and world. But there are a few signs of hope, indicating that possibly, just maybe, the tide might have begun to turn. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are a few things that I am thankful for:

The Christopher Columbus statue in Fairfield, NJ

The vicious campaign against Christopher Columbus over the past year and a half has been nothing short of sickening. At the hands of intolerant mobs of protesters and equally intolerant politicians, statues of the brave explorer have been torn down and in some cases violently destroyed, his name has been erased from schools and other places, and his holiday has been obliterated. However, defying this horrible trend, the town of Fairfield, New Jersey unveiled a brand new statue of Columbus on October 9, 2021. The statue, located outside the Hollywood Avenue Recreation Center, was commissioned by the Fairfield chapter of UNICO and was unveiled at a ceremony featuring pro-Columbus speeches by the mayor and other Italian-American leaders. Recent events have been so demoralizing that I believed another Columbus statue would never again be created, and that the only possible outcome was for the number of statues to inevitably decrease bit by bit until it reached zero. The brave decision to create a new statue of Columbus gives me hope. 

Continue reading “Thanksgiving thoughts”

bookmark_borderNo, hateful vandalism is not understandable

On Columbus Day, among numerous acts of hate and destruction that took place around the world, someone vandalized a cemetery in Middletown, Connecticut. This horrible excuse for a human being wrote profane graffiti about Christopher Columbus and about cops, as well as the phrase “land back.”

According to this article by the local NBC station, “Some people who spoke with NBC Connecticut say they don’t support the vandalism but sympathize with the sentiment.” For example, one person said, “I can understand where the anger and frustration are coming from,” and another person said, “I understand the anger and the vitriol that people have.”

Sentiments like these have been very common during the statue genocide of the past year and half. These sentiments are, frankly, unacceptable. 

Vandalizing a cemetery or church, destroying a statue or monument, scrawling expletives to insult a historical figure… all of these actions are cruel, hurtful, and morally wrong. It’s as simple as that. People who commit actions like these are bullies and bigots. They are motivated by intolerance and hatred of people who are different than them. They have nothing to be angry about, nothing to be frustrated about, and nothing to feel vitriol about. No one should sympathize with their sentiments. 

When the Oklahoma City bombing, or the Boston Marathon bombing, or 9/11 happened, did anyone say, “that was the wrong way to go about it, but I understand the sentiments?” 

No, they did not.

If a predominantly black church or a statue of a black person was vandalized, would people say, “I don’t condone vandalism, but I understand the anger and frustration?” 

No, they would not.

Yet when the victim of a vicious act of hate is a historical figure of European descent, the hate is somehow understandable. 

Every time a statue, monument, memorial, church, or cemetery is vandalized, the action needs to be condemned fully and wholeheartedly, not partially and with qualifications. Neither these actions nor the motivation behind them deserve anyone’s sympathy or understanding. 

bookmark_borderKim Janey’s hypocrisy

I posted earlier this week about Boston Mayor Kim Janey’s disgraceful decision to stomp on Christopher Columbus and Italian-Americans, but after reading some of Janey’s additional comments on that decision, I have more thoughts to share. 

In response to criticism by City Councilor Lydia Edwards, Janey replied, “Italian-Americans have a rich history in the city of Boston and certainly in our nation. We should celebrate all cultures, and I want to remind everyone here: Justice is not a zero-sum game. We can lift up the experiences of indigenous peoples, and we can also respect Italian-Americans.” (source: Stop Anti-Italianism)

I agree with this statement. But the problem is that Janey’s executive order obliterating Columbus Day goes completely counter to her words. 

If Janey actually believed that we should celebrate all cultures, she would not have gotten rid of Columbus Day. You cannot truly celebrate Italian culture without celebrating the very first Italian-American, Christopher Columbus.

If Janey actually wanted to respect both indigenous peoples and Italian-Americans, she would have created an Indigenous Peoples Day on a different date. Taking away Columbus Day inherently disrespects Italian-Americans.

Janey says that justice is not a zero-sum game, but her decision to obliterate Columbus Day makes justice exactly that. Needlessly, she took a holiday away from one group of people in order to create a new holiday for another group. She lifted up the experiences of indigenous peoples at Italian-Americans’ expense. 

Janey’s statement makes absolutely no sense given her actions with respect to Columbus Day. If she actually believed her own words, she would not have done what she did. There is indeed a way to lift up indigenous people while also respecting Italian-Americans, but obliterating Columbus Day is not it. 

bookmark_borderThe BAA’s discrimination against Italian-Americans

Disgracefully, the Boston Athletic Association, the organization that runs the Boston Marathon, has joined the chorus of those who are blatantly discriminating against Italian-Americans and anyone who admires Christopher Columbus. Because the race this year falls on Columbus Day, which has wrongfully been obliterated and replaced with “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” in some places, the organization decided to grovel at the feet of the Indigenous community while completely ignoring all other ethnic groups, cultures, and perspectives. Here is an email that I wrote to them:

Dear Boston Athletic Association,

I am a lifelong resident of the Boston area who has always enjoyed watching the Boston Marathon. I am writing to share how hurt and disappointed I am with your decision to pay special recognition to Indigenous Peoples’ Day and to the Indigenous community, while completely ignoring Columbus Day and the Italian-American community.

On your website, you note that October 11 is “recognized as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in cities and towns on the marathon route,” but make no mention of the fact that this date is also Columbus Day, a holiday that is extremely important to Italian-Americans, or the fact that October is Italian-American Heritage Month. You issued an apology to “all Indigenous people who have felt unheard” but have made no mention of any Italian-Americans who may have felt unheard. Plans for Marathon day include featuring past and present runners of Indigenous descent, but no runners of Italian descent, as well as the creation of a mural that expresses “gratitude to the history of Indigenous runners of the Boston Marathon past and present,” but no works of art relating to Italian runners. Additionally, the BAA has donated $10,000 to WINGS of America, an organization that helps young Indigenous people, and $20,000 to an Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration in Newton, but to my knowledge the BAA has not donated to any Columbus Day celebrations or any organizations that help Italian-Americans.

Your decisions with regard to Indigenous Peoples’ Day were probably motivated by concerns about diversity and inclusion, but they are actually discriminatory, intolerant, and completely antithetical to the ideas of diversity and inclusion. Over the past year and a half, the Italian-American community has really been hurting due to the vicious attacks on statues of Christopher Columbus, one of our cultural heroes. Instead of acknowledging our community and the trauma and pain that we have suffered, the BAA chose to inflict further pain on me and my fellow Italian-Americans by excluding us.

The BAA’s actions with regard to Indigenous Peoples’ Day send the message that people like me are not welcomed or valued. As a result, I will not be watching the Boston Marathon this year. It might be too late to change the plans for this year’s Boston Marathon, but I hope that at future Marathons, the BAA will treat all cultures equally instead of singling some out for special recognition while excluding others.

Sincerely,

Marissa B.

bookmark_borderKim Janey stomps on Italian-Americans

It is painful to even type these words, but today Boston Mayor Kim Janey decided to stomp on the faces of Italian-Americans and everyone who loves history by abolishing Columbus Day in the City of Boston.

For most of my life, I have been proud to be from Boston. Starting when I was a teenager, I enjoyed exploring the different neighborhoods, cheering on the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, and Pats, visiting all of the T stops throughout the city, and photographing the various buildings, landmarks, and public art. But no more. The city of Boston has betrayed me. When someone inflicted horrible pain on me and on the rest of the Italian-American community by brutally ripping the head off of the Christopher Columbus statue, the city of Boston responded by doing nothing to comfort us or even to acknowledge our loss. The city of Boston responded by taking away one of the few good things remaining to us, thereby compounding our pain and rubbing salt in our wounds. The city of Boston responded by rewarding, not punishing, the people who inflicted this horrible pain. To say that these actions are mean, unjust, and completely lacking in empathy is an understatement. 

Clearly, the city of Boston does not value or welcome people like me. Instead of being proud to be from Boston, I am now ashamed to be associated with it. Any enjoyment that I once derived from spending time in Boston is gone.

There are no words adequate to fully express the moral wrongness of Janey’s actions regarding Columbus Day. Every atom in my body screams in agony at the injustice of this situation. So instead of writing words of incoherent rage, I will share a strongly but civilly worded email that I wrote to her earlier today:

Mayor Janey,

I am writing to express my hurt, anger, and disappointment at your executive order to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. This executive order is an example of something that has been far too common over the past year and a half – actively inflicting harm and pain on one group of people for the benefit of a different group of people that happens to be politically favored. This executive order takes away a holiday that is important to Italian-Americans, thereby excluding us from what is considered worthy of honoring and celebrating in the city of Boston. This is discriminatory, intolerant, and completely antithetical to the ideas of diversity and inclusion.

Over the past year and a half, the Italian-American community has really been hurting due to the dozens and dozens of vicious attacks on statues of Christopher Columbus, one of our cultural heroes. In particular, the beheading of the Columbus statue in Boston inflicted horrible pain on me as an individual and on the Italian-American community as a whole. Your executive order inflicts further pain on me and my fellow Italian-Americans by taking away yet another important part of our culture and heritage. Additionally, your executive order rewards the people who destroyed the statue by establishing a holiday in their honor.

In conclusion, this executive order sends the message that inflicting harm and pain on people is a good thing that deserves to be rewarded and celebrated. It sends the message that people like me are not welcome in the city of Boston. It sends the message that some people’s feelings matter, while other people’s feelings do not; that some viewpoints and perspectives matter while others do not; and that some cultures matter while others do not. Hopefully you agree that these are not good messages to send. I respectfully ask you to reconsider your hurtful and exclusionary executive order and reinstate Columbus Day.

Sincerely,

Marissa B.

bookmark_borderOne of the most offensive tweets ever written

Here is another contender for the most offensive tweet ever written. Earlier I wrote about the fact that people (and I use that term loosely) were offended by the existence of the Nao Santa Maria, a replica of the flagship of Christopher Columbus that travels around the world to educate people about history and sailing. In response to a completely innocuous tweet by the ship’s Twitter account, a despicable individual called Trevanion Grenfell wrote the following reply:

I don’t even know where to begin when explaining how offensive this is and how unacceptable it is that someone would think or write it. 

First of all, Columbus was neither genocidal nor a rapist. 

Second, the Nao Santa Maria is neither horrible, nor a glorification of genocide. It is a beautiful replica of a historical ship, which took immense skill, craftsmanship, and hard work to build. Its presence makes the world a better place.

Third, to suggest that a beautiful replica of a historical ship should be burned is utterly appalling and despicable. It is sickening, heartbreaking, and infuriating that a human being could see something so beautiful and good and want it to be destroyed.

Fourth, the Nao Santa Maria does not constitute “rape-apologizing, genocide-excusing, whitewashing colonial bullshit.” It is a ship replica, and literally none of those terms accurately describe it. The ship has nothing to do with rape, as Columbus did not rape anyone. Nor does it excuse genocide, as Columbus did not commit genocide. 

But more importantly, even if Columbus had committed rape and genocide, that still would not make a replica of his ship bad in any way. People have a right to admire, honor, glorify, and commemorate any historical figures they want to. Every historical figure, every culture, every civilization has good points and bad points. People weigh and evaluate factors differently in determining which historical figures they deem worthy of honor and commemoration. Yet Grenfell is presuming that his opinions about which historical figures are honorable are the only opinions that should ever be taken into account. To him, the feelings, ideas, and viewpoints of others do not matter. Anything that he personally dislikes, he argues, should not be allowed to exist. What right does he have to say that a ship is not welcome in the state where he lives?

The Nao Santa Maria presents a mostly positive depiction of Columbus and his crew. That is not “whitewashing,” nor is it “bullshit.” It is a version of history different from the version that prevails in today’s society. This is something that the world needs more of, not less.

Fifth, the use of the term “sic semper tyrannis” is nonsensical and bizarre. This Latin phrase, made famous as the Virginia state motto and also by John Wilkes Booth, means “thus always to tyrants.” But neither a replica of a historical ship, nor the organization that created it, are tyrants. Grenfell and those who share his ideology are the real tyrants here, as they are the ones who are attempting to obliterate all cultures and perspectives other than their own.

Other than all that, this tweet makes perfect sense.

In conclusion, Grenfell is the one who is truly horrible in this situation. He is an intolerant bigot and a cruel, vicious bully who deserves to be expelled from planet earth. It is heartbreaking that a beautiful, educational ship replica is not allowed to exist in our society without being subjected to this type of cruel, evil, racist abuse.

Ironically, Grenfell claims in his Twitter biography to be a “supporter of… wellness for all people.” This is obviously false. If he cared one iota about the wellness of people of European descent, he would not advocate for their culture and history to be erased. If he cared one iota about the wellness of people such as myself, who love Columbus, he would not advocate for everything that makes us happy to be obliterated from the world. Like so many people in today’s society, Grenfell cares only about the well-being of people like him. So much for diversity and inclusion.

bookmark_borderRacist alderwoman celebrates anti-Italian bigotry

In one of the most disgusting twitter exchanges I have ever seen, a racist bigot decided to insult Italian-Americans, and Chicago Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez expressed her agreement. 

As you can see in the above screenshot (via a pro-Columbus Facebook group that I’m part of), an anonymous Twitter user described participants in an Italian-American unity rally in Chicago as “racist” and threatened to beat them up. Rodriguez, for some reason, decided to respond to this person (I use that term loosely), expressing agreement and declaring her plans to celebrate the anniversary of the removal of Chicago’s Columbus statue.

There are no words in the English language (or any language) that fully capture how despicable this is. 

The anti-Columbus and anti-Italian actions that have occurred over the past 14 months have inflicted enormous pain on Italian-Americans and those who love Columbus. All around the U.S. and in much of the world, society has almost unanimously told us that our feelings do not matter, our perspectives do not matter, our history does not matter, our culture does not matter, our happiness does not matter, and our rights do not matter. The symbols of our heritage have been cruelly destroyed, obliterated, and brutalized. We have been insulted, slandered, bullied, and discriminated against. Again and again, we are told that black lives matter, and that indigenous lives matter, while we are treated as if our lives do not matter. We have no power and no voice; our opinions are given no weight by those who hold positions of power in our society. Night after night, I lie awake crying, my mind tormented by images of Columbus statues being smashed to pieces, set on fire, decapitated, thrown to the ground, kicked in the head, and strangled. Every day I face the reality of living in a world that does not care about people like me, a world that has chosen to take away everything that makes my life worth living and refused to recognize the enormous negative impact that these decisions have caused.

And now, when a group of Italian-Americans bravely decides to stand up against these injustices, they are called racists and threatened with violence. 

And an elected official decides, instead of taking a stand against such reprehensible comments, to agree with them. Instead of expressing solidarity with people who have been harmed and discriminated against, she decides to celebrate this harm and discrimination with a glass of champagne. This is someone who is supposed to be a leader and a role model. 

It is “agitator in chief” and Rodriguez who are truly racist. Their tweets are beyond despicable, and the fact that over 200 people “liked” these tweets is a sad commentary on the state of humanity. I condemn these sentiments in the harshest possible terms.

bookmark_borderA new low in the war on Columbus

The senseless, infuriating, and heartbreaking war against Christopher Columbus has hit a new low.

A replica of his flagship, called the Nao Santa Maria, has been sailing around to various locations, providing tours to the public and educating people about history and sailing. (I visited it in Boothbay Harbor, Maine and Provincetown, Mass, and it was awesome.) In a development that should not have been surprising but is somehow still shocking and appalling, allowing the existence of a ship that is related to Columbus proved to be too much to ask of the intolerant, bigoted bullies of political correctness. 

DSC03189.JPG

A variety of ships, including the Nao Santa Maria, were scheduled to take part in a festival celebrating the bicentennial of the state of Maine. The vessels were planning to sail along the Penobscot River, stopping at various locations from Bucksport to Bangor, from July 9-18. But lumps of flesh and bone with no souls (using the word “people” is too kind) demanded that the Santa Maria be banned from taking part. And, as always, the lumps of flesh and bone got what they demanded.

State Sen. Bill Diamond asked event organizers to remove the Santa Maria from the event, saying, “We regret that this ship was chosen for an event that is associated with Maine’s bicentennial, as the mistreatment of Native Americans is a devastating part of Maine’s history.”

Dick Campbell, the organizer of the tall ship festival, complied. According to the Bangor Daily News, he said: “In our interest to celebrate Maine’s maritime heritage and bring masted ships to the Penobscot basin and upriver to Bangor, we failed to appreciate the symbolic significance of bringing the replica of the Santa Maria to port. We are now much more aware of the impact having that vessel here has on those whose histories pre-date Maine statehood. We apologize to those who have been offended by our error.”

The entire tall ship festival was essentially canceled, with the ships’ trip up the river to Bangor called off and the Santa Maria barred from giving tours at Bucksport, where it was already docked.

One lump of flesh and bone with no soul, Dawn Neptune Adams, called the inclusion of the Santa Maria in the event a “gut punch” and “ridiculous” because Columbus didn’t sail to Maine. She and others who share her intolerant ideology organized two protests on the waterfront, as well as a showing of an anti-Columbus propaganda film, in response to the ship’s existence. 

Another group of lumps of flesh and bone issued the following statement, according to the Bangor Daily News: “The Penobscot Nation is disappointed and disheartened that any group would use a replica of a ship used by Christopher Columbus to celebrate the heritage and statehood of Maine. While offensive in numerous ways, as well as historically inaccurate, it is also deeply harmful to the Wabanaki Nations as well as the descendants of all Indigenous Nations.”

All of these comments and statements demonstrate a complete lack of logic and a complete lack of empathy.

The existence of a replica of the Santa Maria is neither “ridiculous,” nor “offensive” (let alone in “numerous ways”), nor “harmful” (let alone “deeply” so), nor “historically inaccurate.” The statements by Adams and by the Penobscot Nation, however, are all of these things. First of all, the fact that the tall ship festival was being held in honor of Maine’s bicentennial does not create a requirement for every ship to have a connection to Maine. The Santa Maria is a ship; that alone makes it appropriate to include it. It is also cool, beautiful, unique, and different. As someone who loves Christopher Columbus and anything related to him, I appreciated the opportunity to visit the Santa Maria. If you don’t find the Santa Maria cool, then simply don’t visit it. It is wrong to deny others that opportunity.

It never ceases to astound and infuriate me that so many people think they have the right to obliterate from the earth everything that they dislike. Again and again, indigenous organizations have expressed anger and outrage that cultures other than their own are allowed to exist, that viewpoints other than their own are allowed to be expressed, and that historical figures that they personally dislike are allowed to be honored. And unfortunately, due to the cowardice and callousness of our society’s leaders, they get their way nearly 100% of the time. Columbus Day is abolished in city after city, statues of Columbus are brutally and cruelly town down, art depicting him is censored, things named after him are renamed, and now even a replica of his ship is banned from participating in a festival. These despicable bullies have nothing to be disappointed or disheartened about. They get their way on everything, while people such as myself who admire Columbus are allowed nothing. We are the ones who are truly disappointed and disheartened, for we are the ones being treated unjustly. It is us, not Dawn Neptune Adams, who have truly suffered a gut punch. After being psychologically beaten and battered again and again by one horrific anti-Columbus attack after another over the past 14 months, these protests and these comments are yet another thing that has shattered my heart into a million pieces. It is these mean-spirited, cruel, and intolerant views that are truly ridiculous, offensive in numerous ways, and deeply harmful.

Including the Santa Maria in the festival was not an error, and the organizers should not have apologized. In reality, they should apologize for canceling the event. By doing this, they mindlessly submitted to the unreasonable demands of a group of bullies without regard to the rights or feelings of anyone else. The pervasive, systematic obliteration from the world of anything related to Columbus has caused, and continues to cause, immense pain to those who admire him, including myself. By making the decision that they did, the event organizers sided with the perpetrators of this obliteration campaign and added to the pain of those who have been victimized by it. The lack of empathy is appalling. Every trace of the man that I admire is being systematically obliterated from the earth, and no one has considered the impact that these decisions have on people like me, or taken our viewpoints into account in any way.

It is difficult to know who is more despicable: the bullies who viciously protest the existence of cultures other than their own, or the spineless cowards who have abdicated their responsibility to make thoughtful, fair decisions and instead chosen to act as mere rubber stamps to the demands made by the bullies. 

After the Santa Maria’s visit to Bangor was canceled, a citizen of Castine, Maine named Rob DeGennaro offered the ship a place to dock outside his restaurant. According to WABI Channel 5, he said: “We can’t look at it the way that the protestors did over in Bucksport. I understand where they’re coming from as well, and we feel for that, but there’s a lot more that goes into this. I want to just keep it as a positive situation, a positive learning environment is what we’re trying to do here.”

I appreciate that DeGennaro stepped up and came to the ship’s defense, but he has more empathy for the protesters than they deserve. I do not understand where they are coming from, and I don’t feel for them. They are deliberately destroying everything that makes my life worth living. They deserve no empathy and no understanding, because they have no empathy or understanding for anyone else. There is no reason why a ship replica should be anything other than a positive learning experience. But the politically correct bullies will not allow anything to be a positive situation. They will not allow anything to exist that is unique, different, cool, beautiful, interesting, or valuable in any way. They take everything good in the world and destroy it; they take everything positive and turn it negative, controversial, and dark. Bland, mindless conformity is all they will allow to exist. 

I condemn the decision to cancel the Santa Maria’s trip to Bangor, and all those who were involved in it, or advocated for it, in the harshest possible terms.