Rubbing salt in the wounds

As part of the senseless war against every person and thing from history that is unique or different, there has been a concerted effort to obliterate the legacy of Christopher Columbus. One of the most despicable instances of this has taken place in the city of Columbus, Ohio. Reprehensibly, the city decided to remove two beautiful statues of the Italian hero: one outside city hall and one at a community college. Making this even more disgusting is the fact that the statue at city hall was gifted by Columbus’s hometown of Genoa, Italy in 1955. Genoa and Columbus were considered sister cities until the latter decided to spit in the face of the Italian-American community by repudiating both its Italian counterpart and its namesake. 

A recent column by Theodore Decker of the Columbus Dispatch makes light of this situation in a way that I find offensive and disrespectful to those who have been hurt by the city’s actions. The column is titled, “Amid a raging storm, Columbus finds a safe harbor on Statehouse lawn.” Thinking that perhaps some entity had actually decided to think for itself and keep a Columbus statue in place, I clicked on the article. Unfortunately, the title was somewhat deceptive. Far from having announced the intention to let Columbus stay, the Ohio state government had determined that the city’s only remaining statue of its namesake, located outside the State House, will likely be obliterated along with the other two; there will just be a five-year process to make the decision official.

In the column, Decker pokes fun at Columbus and portrays the heartless and bigoted assault on him as something neutral or even positive. “Columbus the man, as you know, has taken a bit of a blow to his reputation, what with the pretty much indisputable allegations of genocide and all,” Decker writes. The allegations of genocide are actually very disputable; see this paper by the Sons of Italy, for example. Additionally, Decker points out in a flippant and almost gleeful tone that the explorer has “fallen from grace,” that the two statues of him were “swiftly vanquished,” that the city’s “love affair with Columbus the man was fading,” and that his reputation has been “tainted by, well, the complexities that accompany historical reality.” And he jokes that the statues were moved to “the city’s top-secret government base, Area 1492.”

Making matters worse, Decker seems to take delight in the fact that one of the few people with the courage to defend Columbus – State Rep. Larry Householder – happened to be arrested for money laundering. “Nobody is perfect,” Householder pointed out in defense of Columbus. Decker takes a dismissive tone towards this comment, but it is actually an important and meaningful point. The attitude of the anti-statue crowd is, indeed, that anyone who is not perfect by their standards should be destroyed. This ideology is disturbing because of its bigotry and intolerance, because of the inconsistency with which it is applied, and because it strips the world of everything meaningful, distinctive, and interesting. Householder is therefore correct to take a stand against it.

But this point is lost on Decker, who seems to care about nothing but reveling in the misfortune of others. I don’t get what the money laundering charges against Householder have to do with Columbus, and I don’t see the purpose of pointing them out, other than to further stigmatize and inflict additional pain on those who are already on the minority side of an issue. What is the point of writing a column that consists solely of kicking people who are already down and rubbing salt into the wounds of people who are already hurting? The brutal campaign of destruction against Columbus is not funny. It is a vicious assault on a brave and remarkable man who is unable to defend himself. Seeing a man who I love and admire being treated this way is heartbreaking, infuriating, and soul-crushing. To make light of these despicable actions demonstrates a complete lack of empathy for those who have been harmed. No matter what imperfections Christopher Columbus might have had, it is indisputable that he risked his life for what he believed in. Has Decker ever sailed into uncharted territory, braved sickness and starvation, interacted with people from a completely unknown civilization, and established a settlement in a foreign land? My guess would be no. Instead, it appears that he does nothing but sit on his butt writing columns that ridicule and insult people. He should consider actually fighting for something that he believes in, or attempting to contribute something positive to the world, as opposed to gleefully pointing out the flaws of others and delighting in their misfortune.