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.