bookmark_borderThe abyss

In this post, I am going to explain in more detail how Stonewall Jackson helps me.

First of all, it would be a lie if I said that Stonewall completely ameliorated my grief at the statue genocide. This grief is always present, and will be for the rest of my life. But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t make a huge and positive difference. He absolutely does.

For the first two weeks after Stonewall arrived, I thought that perhaps the misery of the past two and a half years had finally come to an end. But unfortunately, on Columbus Day, my state of mind completely changed. The excruciating pain, which had been mercifully absent for two weeks, returned with a vengeance. Looking back, I think the reason for that was that I came to the realization: as awesome as Stonewall is, he is not Columbus. They are two different people. I have Stonewall living in my yard, for me to clean, care for, and keep safe, which is absolutely awesome. But Columbus is still out in the world being smashed to pieces, strangled, set on fire, beheaded, tortured, and eviscerated. Every time Columbus is hurt, it makes me feel that my soul is being eviscerated as well. And there is nothing that I can do about any of it. Like I said, having Stonewall is wonderful. But it does not do anything about Columbus (or any of the other historical figures who are being smashed to pieces, strangled, set on fire, beheaded, tortured, and/or eviscerated as well).

Sometimes I can go about my life relatively normally, and even be in a good mood. But sometimes the sense of loss hits me. Sometimes it hits me when I am lying in bed and haven’t fallen asleep yet, because there are no tasks to occupy my mind. Sometimes it hits me because of something I see, hear, or read. For example, I recently saw an ad on TV for the Armenian Heritage Park, a section of the Rose Kennedy Greenway with a meandering path and an abstract sculpture that represents the experience of Armenian immigrants in the U.S. Three guesses which park that reminded me of? (Hint: it’s a park dedicated to immigrants of a different nationality, which no longer contains a sculpture.)

When the sense of loss hits, I am filled with an overwhelming mix of sadness, rage, horror, and disgust. My stomach drops. Both the quantity and the severity of the atrocities that have occurred are so huge as to be completely incomprehensible. It’s like a tidal wave of badness, crashing into me just like a real tidal wave crashes into a city, destroying all the buildings, flooding the streets, and carrying the people away. My brain can’t hold the totality of what has happened. Picturing any one instance of the statue genocide makes me feel that every fiber of my being is exploding in agony and my soul is being eviscerated. If I were to somehow picture in my mind each instance of brutal, horrific cruelty, each abhorrent social media post, each appalling article, opinion piece, and editorial, and each nauseating statement by a politician, then I would be completely psychologically destroyed. When the loss hits, it’s as if I am staring into an abyss that threatens to swallow me. An abyss filled with such profound badness that it can’t be fully comprehended. It’s as if I am being sucked into the abyss.

The difference is that now, there is also something pulling me in the opposite direction. That something is Stonewall Jackson. It’s kind of like a seesaw, or possibly the scales of justice. On one side, the abyss is trying to suck me in. But on the other side is Stonewall. Because of him, I have a reason to go on living.

So the problem is not fixed. But before, there was nothing on the other side. There was only the abyss. There are still times when I feel excruciating pain. But there are also times when I don’t. Thoughts of Columbus and how cruelly he has been ganged up on and brutalized still overwhelm me. But thoughts of Stonewall fill me with such joy and pride that it is difficult not to start jumping up and down and telling everyone in the vicinity. I love Stonewall, I love Columbus, and I love all the historical figures from the Confederacy. And because of this, I hate what our society has done to them.

For the rest of my life, I will wrestle with these sometimes contradictory thoughts and feelings. I live now with both the good and the bad, where before there was only bad.

That is a huge difference. And it is all because of Stonewall.

There is also the possibility that I might get additional statues in the years to come. Perhaps I will become the guardian of a metal or stone Columbus one day, or perhaps Jefferson Davis or Robert E. Lee. That might help to ease the excruciating pain that I feel for those historical figures. It would be cool for Stonewall to have a group of friends living in the yard with him. Although I still become filled with despair sometimes, when the sense of loss hits me, there are also times that I feel excited when thinking about these possibilities. Having dreams, hopes, and plans for my future is somewhat new to me. For most of my life, getting through each day was so difficult that the future was something I never really thought about.

The ability and desire to think about the future is another huge change for me. And that’s because of Stonewall as well.

bookmark_borderThe Minnesota state capitol

On Thanksgiving night, the Patriots were playing the Vikings in Minnesota. Full from my feast of turkey, stuffing, various side dishes, and various pies, I turned on the TV, looking forward to relaxing with a night of football. The usual pregame fanfare took place – analysts making predictions, players running onto the field, the crowd clapping their hands together and chanting “skol,” and gymnast Suni Lee blowing the huge Viking horn to kick off the game. The teams alternated touchdowns and field goals.

And then, coming back from a commercial break, the NBC broadcast showed a shot of a stately-looking white building topped with a gold dome. Lights shone from within and around the building, illuminating it against the night sky. Announcer Mike Tirico informed the audience that it was the state capitol building in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Immediately, my stomach dropped.

When I think of the Minnesota state capitol, the only thing I can think about is the man that I love, being murdered.

A mob of people, yelling and chanting. Tightening a noose around his neck. Pulling on the rope until his body smashes to the ground with a sickening thud. The mob surrounding him, kicking him and screaming. One member of the mob after another, standing atop the pedestal where the man that I love ought to be standing, raising their arms in sadistic triumph, posing for the news cameras. People (and I use that term loosely) posing with their knees on his neck in a perverse imitation of Officer Chauvin and George Floyd (as if recreating the very thing you are protesting against is somehow an appropriate form of protest). Police officers, at least two dozen of them, standing by in their blue uniforms with their hands behind their backs, making no attempt to intervene as the man I love, the man who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and discovered this continent, is strangled, brutalized, and tortured. Doing nothing as everything that makes my life worth living is destroyed.

To me, these are the most disgusting and horrifying images that it is possible to imagine. The actions that took place at the Minnesota state capitol in 2020 were actions of unspeakable brutality, sadism, and cruelty. The pain that these actions have inflicted on me is the worst pain possible for a human being to experience.

Not only did the police make no attempt to stop these reprehensible actions, but they did not arrest any of the perpetrators. The ringleader was charged with vandalism, but the case was resolved by holding a “talking circle” in which he got to explain the immoral motives behind his vicious actions. He received no punishment. No jail time, no fine, no house arrest, no community service. Nothing.

The lieutenant governor of Minnesota stated that she was “not disappointed” in the actions of unspeakable brutality, sadism, and cruelty that were perpetrated against the man that I love.

The actions that took place at the Minnesota state capitol demonstrate that people like me no longer have any protection under the law. To our society, my feelings don’t matter, my thoughts don’t matter, my perspective doesn’t matter, and my happiness doesn’t matter. A mob of bullies and bigots was allowed to murder the man I love in the most brutal of ways with complete impunity. To our society, his life means nothing.

When Mike Tirico told the audience that the building being shown on the TV was the Minnesota state capitol, he didn’t mention any of this. To NBC, the life of the man I love apparently doesn’t mean anything, either.

It was difficult to care much about the outcome of the football game after that.

bookmark_borderThe disgusting bigotry and sadism of David Leavitt

In one of the most disgusting, appalling, and hypocritical series of actions that I have ever seen, a so-called “journalist” named David Leavitt decided to viciously insult a political candidate, and subsequently to call Child Protective Services on said candidate, for the crime of having attended a Columbus Day ceremony with her daughter.

Leavitt instigated this conflict with Virginia state senate candidate Tina Ramirez by attacking her, asking on Twitter: “Why are you celebrating torture, rape, murder, and enslavement?”

When Ramirez dared to defend herself, Leavitt sicced his 330,000 followers on her by asking them, “Can someone please call child care services on Tina Ramirez who’s teaching her child to be a racist?”

Leavitt then proceeded to retweet dozens of mindless, sycophantic comments insulting both Ramirez and Christopher Columbus. And then, apparently too impatient to wait for his followers to do so, Leavitt called Child Protective Services himself and detailed his experience waiting on hold in a lengthy tweet thread.

And then, because this horrendous behavior apparently wasn’t horrendous enough, Leavitt complained when a Twitter user actually had the guts to stand up to him. “I’m being the subject of targeted harassment by someone who’s celebrating the torture, rape, murder, and enslavement of indigenous peoples,” he preposterously wrote. This after he instigated a conflict with an innocent person, who was minding her own business, by viciously insulting her and then urging his 330,000 followers to call CPS on her. For someone to complain that he is “being the subject of targeted harassment” immediately after himself instigating a campaign of targeted harassment is so hypocritical that it boggles the mind. I repeat: Leavitt is the one instigating a campaign of targeted harassment. He is the perpetrator of targeted harassment, not the victim.

Unbelievably, what I have described does not capture the full extent of Leavitt’s disgusting behavior. Throughout Columbus Day, he posted tweet after tweet characterizing the holiday as “celebrating torture, rape, murder, and enslavement.”

These comments are profoundly wrong. As I explained in an earlier blog post, obliterating a historical figure’s existence by removing their statues, monuments, and holidays inflicts harm and suffering on those historical figures and is the equivalent of torturing them to death. Given the enormous harm that has already been inflicted on Columbus through the grotesque dismemberment of his statues, celebrating “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” is the equivalent of going up to a person who is lying in a hospital bed in critical condition, and stomping on his face. To celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day is to celebrate and honor people who are brutally dismembering, and torturing to death, a historical figure.

So, no, Tina Ramirez was not “celebrating torture, rape, murder, and enslavement,” nor was she “teaching her child to be a racist.” She was celebrating Christopher Columbus. She was comforting, helping, and expressing solidarity with a person who has suffered enormous harm. And Leavitt chose to attack her for this. Leavitt chose to attack Ramirez because she helped a person in pain as opposed to stomping on his face.

No, the individual falsely accused by Leavitt of “targeted harassment” was not “celebrating the torture, rape, murder, and enslavement of indigenous peoples.” He was celebrating Christopher Columbus. He was expressing solidarity with a person who is suffering, as opposed to stomping on his face. And Leavitt chose to attack him for this.

“To all the companies “celebrating” torture, rape, murder, enslavement, and exploitation with the Happy Columbus Day posts: I see you #IndigenousPeoplesDay,” wrote Leavitt. But no companies were celebrating torture, rape, murder, enslavement, or exploitation. The companies were celebrating Christopher Columbus. These companies chose to express solidarity with a person who is suffering, as opposed to stomping on his face. And Leavitt chose to attack them for this.

“Why is the @GOP celebrating torture, rape, murder, and enslavement?” Leavitt asked. But the GOP was not celebrating torture, rape, murder, or enslavement. They were celebrating Christopher Columbus. They were expressing solidarity with a person who is suffering, as opposed to stomping on his face. And Leavitt chose to attack them for this.

“I just had to report a death threat from someone who’s who’s celebrating the torture, rape, murder, and enslavement of indigenous peoples,” wrote Leavitt. But no, this person was not celebrating the torture, rape, murder, or enslavement of indigenous peoples. The person was expressing solidarity with someone who is suffering, as opposed to stomping on his face. And Leavitt chose to attack him for this.

“I’m not religious, but people who celebrating torture, rape, murder, and enslavement surely don’t go to heaven,” Leavitt wrote. But no one was celebrating torture, rape, murder, or enslavement. The people in question were celebrating Christopher Columbus. They were expressing solidarity with someone who is suffering. And in my opinion, helping a suffering person makes one much more worthy of going to Heaven than stomping on his face.

To sum up, comforting, helping, and expressing solidarity with a suffering person is not the same thing as “celebrating torture, rape, murder, and enslavement.” In reality, David Leavitt and all those who celebrate “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” have been celebrating the infliction of harm, suffering, and pain. They have been celebrating the fact that a historical figure is being dismembered and tortured to death. For a person to celebrate something so unworthy of celebration is despicable enough, but Leavitt takes things even further by aggressively and viciously attacking anyone who has the audacity not to join him in his “celebration.” Leavitt chose, again and again, to aggressively and viciously attack people because they comforted, helped, and expressed solidarity with a suffering historical figure instead of stomping on his face. Perhaps Leavitt was somehow trying to make himself look and feel morally superior by beating up on someone who is wounded, hurting, and completely unable to defend himself. But all he did was reveal himself to be a nasty, sadistic bully with no compassion and no empathy. He should be ashamed of his words and behavior.

bookmark_border“Torture, rape, murder, and enslavement”

“Why are you celebrating torture, rape, murder, and enslavement?”

These are the words that a despicable person (and I use that term loosely) posted on Twitter. Said person (again, using the term loosely) repeated these words again and again, aggressively attacking people, companies, and organizations that had the audacity to wish their followers a happy Columbus Day.

To say that these words are false is the greatest understatement imaginable. These words are so wrong that there are no words in the English language (or any language) adequate to convey the extent of their wrongness, or to describe the rage and grief that consume my entire being upon reading them. These words are beyond harmful, beyond demoralizing, beyond overwhelming, and beyond infuriating. As I’ve written before, attacks on Christopher Columbus cause me unbearable and indescribable pain, and these anti-Columbus words are among the most egregious that have ever been uttered.

Often, when I read or see or her words such as these, I am paralyzed. I am filled with such excruciating pain that I cannot act, cannot think, am not capable of rational thought. My emotions are so strong that they cannot be expressed in words. And because there are no words to fully capture the wrongness of what I have read, I often don’t write or say anything at all.

Unfortunately, these disgusting and excruciatingly painful words are only one drop of water in a vast ocean of disgusting and excruciatingly painful sentiments that have been expressed to mark the occasion of Columbus Day. As I sit paralyzed, horrible words continue to come in, forming a pile of horribleness that grows larger and larger with each new social media post, news article, or politician’s statement. Doing nothing is the worst possible thing to do, because failing to publicly condemn these words implies that I am okay with them, or at least don’t consider them a serious problem. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

So even though there are no words adequate to express the extent of the wrongness, I have to try. I have to condemn the horrible attacks as strongly as I can, even if no words are quite strong enough. I have to explain why the statements are wrong, using the best and most accurate words that I can. I have to convey, as completely as possible, how much pain the horrible words inflict on me. I am learning to accept that unless I magically become immortal and acquire a source of unlimited income so that I no longer have to work, the pile of horribleness will likely never go down to zero. But it is better to rebut some of the horribleness than none.

Some days, I have the time and energy to tackle some of the horrible things from the pile. On those days, I feel all right. I feel that I am doing something to fight back against the people doing the horrible things. On other days, my mind collapses under the weight of the pile. On those days, I am overwhelmed by both the egregiousness and the enormous quantity of the horribleness that has happened.

This explains why I am not always able to write about the horrible things happening in the world in a timely manner. But even if I write about a horrible thing long after it happened, I think it is still worth doing. It is better to condemn and rebut something at a seemingly random time than to let it go without any condemnation or rebuttal at all. I hope over the coming days, weeks, and months to tackle some of the horrible things that have been said on the topic of Columbus Day, starting with the grotesque “torture, rape, murder, and enslavement” comments.

bookmark_borderWhy I say Columbus Day, not Indigenous Peoples’ Day

I love Christopher Columbus. My love for Columbus is difficult to explain, to logically justify, or to fully convey in words. I don’t love him in a sexual sense, or even in a romantic sense, but I love him passionately and fiercely. I love him more than anything else in the world.

Perhaps the most significant thing about Columbus, and the first thing that would come to mind if someone asked why I love him, is the fact that he was a brave explorer. I love that he came up with a revolutionary idea and pursued it until he had accomplished his dream, even when people dismissed it as ridiculous. I love that he risked his life crossing an ocean that (as far as he knew) no one had ever crossed before, not knowing how far the voyage would be or exactly what lay on the other side. By all accounts, Columbus was courageous, determined, intelligent, intellectually curious, independent-minded, quirky, and eccentric, all qualities that I admire and would like to think that I possess as well. Like Columbus, I am of Italian descent, so I feel a personal connection to him for that reason as well.

I also love statues of Christopher Columbus. I love that there are (or were, before people started brutally destroying them, but more on that later) so many statues of him all over the world. I love that the statues are both similar and different at the same time. Almost all of them depict a heroic-looking man with long hair and some sort of old-fashioned tunic and/or cape. But the statues are of different sizes, made of different materials, posed in different positions, different in their facial features and appearance, and wearing different variations of the same basic style of outfit. Some wear hats and some do not. Some hold maps, or binoculars, or swords, or other accessories, while others do not.

All of the things that I have listed above are reasons why I love Christopher Columbus and his statues. But it is impossible to reduce my love of Columbus to any of these things, or even the entire list of things collectively. As the saying goes, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Although words cannot fully capture my love for Columbus, and logic cannot fully justify it, neither of those things makes my love for Columbus any less valid or any less important. Columbus is the most important thing in the world to me. He is absolutely necessary to my happiness and well-being, necessary for me to have a life that is worth living. Columbus is irreplaceable, and it is obscene to suggest that he simply be replaced by another historical Italian American who is deemed more “acceptable” by the political establishment.

Obviously, Columbus does not exist in the same way that regular people do. In a literal sense and in a biological sense, he is dead, of course. But the way I see it, he lives on in the form of statues, monuments, holidays, places, and things named for him. Christopher Columbus exists as a historical figure. He exists in an abstract sense and in a spiritual sense. He exists in various forms all across the world. In the form of statues, his existence is made concrete. In other words, I think of Columbus as one person, but with numerous bodies. He is both one and many at the same time.

Unfortunately, in recent years, a movement has increased in popularity and power, a movement whose goal is to obliterate Columbus as a historical figure. Their goal, the way that I perceive it, is to murder Columbus. Not to murder him in a literal, biological sense, or a sense that is recognized by the law. But a sense that, to me, is just as real. And unfortunately, this movement has been very successful. At the hands of this movement, Columbus has been decapitated, smashed to pieces, hacked apart with axes and sledgehammers, strangled with nooses tightened around his neck, set on fire, and thrown into harbors and rivers. Dozens and dozens of Columbus’s bodies have been viciously destroyed with appalling cruelty. Because Columbus exists in numerous forms, he will not be completely killed as a historical figure until and unless every single one of these bodies is destroyed. But as the anti-Columbus movement continues to gain popularity and power, Columbus grows weaker. I imagine his power, presence, strength, and existence as a historical figure dwindling every time a body (or holiday or place name) is destroyed or removed from public view. I picture him screaming in anguish, writhing in agony, and crying tears of despair as more and more pieces of him are cruelly hacked off and chipped away.

Because I love Columbus, the actions of the anti-Columbus movement inflict unimaginable and unbearable pain on me. These actions are beyond harmful, beyond demoralizing, beyond hope-destroying, beyond overwhelming, and beyond infuriating. Hearing about, reading about, seeing images of, or even merely thinking about any attack on Columbus fills me with indescribable grief and rage. My stomach feels sick, my entire body is wracked with pain, and every atom feels like it is exploding in agony. My entire being feels like it is getting eviscerated. My soul feels as if it is being trampled on, crushed into the ground, pulverized, and turned to dust. My mind is entirely consumed by images of the man that I love being dismembered and tortured, his beautiful body being smashed to pieces, his head being ripped from his shoulders. The images are so vivid in their violence and their brutality that they obliterate any possibility of hope, positivity, or happiness. There are no words that fully capture this pain, other than to say that it is the worst pain imaginable.

Every time a new statue is removed, torn down, or vandalized, the pain erupts all over again. The pain erupts every time something named after Columbus gets renamed, and it erupts every time a city or state changes Columbus Day to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” The pain erupts every time I see or hear any criticism of Columbus or any opinions in support of removing Columbus statues or Columbus Day. The pain erupts every time I see a social media post wishing people “Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” when I see signs referring to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” in the windows of businesses, and whenever I see the words “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” at all.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a celebration of the dismemberment and torture of the man I love.

If you think this is an unfair characterization, consider how the pro-statue movement was treated after the protest that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. Because one pro-statue protestor committed the (alleged) crime of vehicular homicide, the entire pro-statue movement was punished with both universal condemnation and a doubling-down on the despicable trend of statue removal. Given that the entire pro-statue movement was brutally punished for the actions of one person, it is not unreasonable to demand that the entire anti-Columbus movement be punished for the hundreds of vicious acts of dismemberment and torture that have been perpetrated all over the country against the man that I love.

In my opinion, the only correct response to the horrific crimes perpetrated against Columbus would be to hold the entire anti-Columbus movement accountable. The leaders of this movement should be required to wholeheartedly, sincerely, and completely denounce these despicable acts before society even remotely considers adding any new statues, monuments, place names, or holidays favored by the anti-Columbus movement. And if the leaders of the anti-Columbus movement fail to denounce the despicable acts, then society should begin removing the existing statues, monuments, place names, and holidays favored by this movement. If you think that this is unfair, consider the fact that this is exactly how the pro-statue movement was treated after Charlottesville.

But of course, society did the exact opposite of what it should have done. When people who hate historical figures have committed horrific acts of violence against them, not only is their entire movement not punished, but the individuals who perpetrated the acts aren’t either. Out of all the people who beheaded, strangled, burned, drowned, and dismembered the man I love, almost none were arrested, charged with any offenses, or even criticized by anyone other than me and a small handful of people. Making matters even worse, both the individual perpetrators and their movement as a whole were actually rewarded for their horrific actions. Public officials chose to respond to the torturing and dismembering of Columbus by taking down additional Columbus statues, by removing Columbus’s name from additional things, and by replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. They responded to a targeted campaign of torture and dismemberment against an individual by rewarding the perpetrators and by further harming the victim. In other words, society has decided that the torturing and dismembering of Christopher Columbus is worthy of being celebrated with a holiday.

There are no words that fully convey how morally wrong this is. To call this unfair, unjust, harmful, or hurtful is an understatement. Despicable, disgusting, reprehensible, repugnant, appalling, abhorrent… none of these words are quite strong enough, either. As I wrote above, the pain that this inflicts on me is the worst pain imaginable. When the pain is at its worst, I wonder how I can continue to live in the society that decided this. I wonder how I can possibly have a future in a society that chose to establish a holiday celebrating the infliction of horrific pain on both myself and the man I love and honoring its perpetrators.

In conclusion, when you say “Columbus Day,” you are affirming that it is not okay to brutalize, dismember, torture, and murder a historical figure who can do nothing to defend himself. You are expressing solidarity with someone who has been horrifically harmed. You are making a small gesture to help a suffering human being. For every person who honors and celebrates Columbus on Columbus Day, his existence as a historical figure is protected and solidified, a tiny iota of his strength is restored, his pain is slightly eased, and his grievous wounds are helped just a little bit to heal.

When you say “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” you are saying that to brutalize, dismember, torture, and murder a defenseless human being is good and should be celebrated. You are saying that it is good to inflict horrific harm and pain. You are saying that when a person is suffering, the correct thing to do is not to comfort him, but to stomp on his face and inflict further pain. When you say “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” you are expressing solidarity not with the victims of appallingly cruel and harmful actions, but with the perpetrators.

Personally, I don’t really think those are good sentiments to be expressing.

That is why I call the second Monday in October, Columbus Day.

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.