By Steve Croyle
TOPIC: Christopher Columbus and the statue debate
Clean up your history, America
Amidst the fervor of Southern heroes being torn from their moorings, and shredded into semi valuable scrap metal, the quiet little city of Oberlin, Ohio took things a step further and scrubbed Christopher Columbus from the Federal Holiday bearing his name. Now, public and bank employees in the city of Oberlin will torment the rest of us by gloating about a day off in the name of Indigenous People.
Some seem to take great offense to these measures, calling it a left-wing attempt to rewrite history. Others call these efforts pointless, insisting that you can’t change history and that the problems facing society run deeper than a few hundred statues, or a battle flag, or a day named for a man who got more credit than he ever deserved.
You can’t deny, however, that this act of tearing down statues honoring Confederate leaders has stimulated quite a dialogue. When people gather around a towering bronze likeness of Robert E. Lee to demand that it be razed, you have to ask why. Not only why they want it to come down, but why somebody wanted it up in the first place.
The same is true of Christopher Columbus, Joe Paterno, or Chief Wahoo.
Christopher Columbus is a hero to Europeans because he “Discovered” the “New World.” That concept is decidedly arrogant. How do you “Discover” something millions of people were already inhabiting? What’s “New” about a continent (or two) that had already been discovered by Asians, Vikings, and Africans who took to the open seas long before superstitious white people started to suspect that the world wasn’t flat, and monsters didn’t exist just over the horizon?
We honored Columbus for the same reasons we honored Southern Generals: vanity. We tear down these monuments because it erases the false narrative of our vanity, and allows us to confront the truth. When you honor Columbus with a holiday, and statues, and so many things named after him, you create the impression that his virtues outweigh his flaws. This, unfortunately is not true.
Columbus was a repugnant historical figure who was motivated by greed and arrogance. He was a terrible navigator, an incompetent commander, and a tyrannical colonial leader. And those are his good points. He was also a pederast, a rapist, and a mass murderer.
When you make the decision to respect the people he violated by not honoring him, you’re forced to accept the unvarnished truth. Then, perhaps, kids can learn that this country of ours came a horrific human cost, and history can stop repeating itself.
What if children growing up in colonial times had learned about the true nature of the Columbian Conquest? Is it possible that we could have avoided the attempted extirpation of Native Americans? Would our Founding Fathers have been more inclined to preempt the Civil War by abolishing slavery in the Constitution, as they should have if they were truly men of honor who valued liberty and justice for all. Then we wouldn’t have to explain that the men who led the Southern Armies were willing to commit treason, and murder their fellow countrymen in order to preserve the institutions of Slavery and White Supremacy.
Our Founding Fathers were flawed. History holds them up as heroes, who defied King George in the name of liberty, but most of them were greedy land barons who seized an opportunity to cut Great Britain out. Freedom? To absolve themselves of debt, maybe, but Parliament finally eclipsed the powers of the Crown following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, 100 years before the US Constitution was ratified.
The American Colonies were a tertiary concern at best, a fact Colonial instigators were counting on. Cornwallis’ surrender wasn’t viewed as a defeat in London, so why do we see it as a victory?
Perhaps embracing a lie about the nature of our independence as a nation has made it easy for us to ignore the truth about the history of racism, sexism, and Christian fundamentalism that has compromised what we purport to stand for, and the concern some people express over whether Jefferson, Washington, and the other founders are next is valid. That’s not to say a reexamination of their virtue wouldn’t be a good thing. The truth is always worthwhile.
Does that mean we need to tear down the Jefferson Memorial? That’s hard to say. Did he do enough good for us to overlook the fact that he was a rapist, or are we willing to overlook the fact that consent cannot exist when the relationship is between a slave and her master?
It’s hard to tell what the future will make of today’s backlash against the mythologies of the South, and Christopher Columbus, or where it well stop, but what are people afraid of? Hiding the truth behind a layer of whimsical nostalgia has not helped advance us as a society. All we seem to be doing is encouraging people to support their conceits and prejudices with falsehoods. How can you move forward, if you never know where you’re starting from?
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Some people will tell you Colin Kaepernick is being punished for taking a social stance, others will say that he’s just not a very good QB. Both statements are true. Kap isn’t a very good QB, but he’s a lot better than most of the guys taking up cap space in the NFL. You might be among those who take offense to Kap’s decision to politicize the National Anthem, and the fact that Kap is out of a job probably brings you a great deal of joy. You might also think other players should take note.
Well, they did. With Kap out of work, and vowing that his protest days are done, Malcolm Jenkins has stepped forward to raise his fist in defiance of the oppression this Land of the Free lacks the bravery to confront. Yes, that same Malcolm Jenkins who once terrorized the Big 10 as a Buckeye.
He’s not alone. As a show of support, teammate Chris Long will put his arm around Jenkins, encouraging other white players, and white men around the country, to stand up as allies of equality. The Seahawk’s Justin Britt, and Raiders QB Derek Carr have demonstrated similar support.
Prior to their preseason game against the Giants several Cleveland players took a knee, including one white player, Seth DeValve. Others demonstrated support by placing their hands on the shoulders of the kneeling players, forming something akin to a prayer circle often seen on NFL sidelines. DeValve made note of his African American wife, and a desire to make the world a better place for the children he hopes to have.
Whatever you think of Kaepernick, the bravery he demonstrated by peacefully taking a knee to protest racism has inspired others to do the same. It might be time to focus on the issue, rather than the protest itself.
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“I HOPE TRUMP IS ASSASSINATED”
Missouri Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal stooped to an unforgivable low when she posted “I hope Trump is assassinated.” on her Facebook Page. She quickly apologized, but that’s not good enough. She should resign, and if she won’t resigned she should be disavowed by her party, and she should face administrative action from the state legislature.
Make no mistake, Trump is a reprehensible president. He represents the low watermark of an office that has suffered the indignation of Richard Nixon, Andrew Johnson, and Warren Harding. It’s not at all out of line for people to wish for a swift end to his administration, and the First Amendment doesn’t prohibit anyone from publicly wishing for his assassination.
But elected officials at any level have to bear in mind that they are not just anyone. They represent their constituents, and when a leader of people resorts to this sort of poorly vetted discourse, there is always a possibility that somebody might take the flippant remarks as a call to action.
Chappelle-Nadal just lowered herself, and her party to an unacceptable level, at a time when we desperately need leaders to elevate us from the gutter we’re currently mired in.
“These are opinions!”
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of 614Now, 614 Mediagroup or its employees. Take a deep breath… it’s just one man’s opinion. If you want your voice heard beyond the comments section, we invite you to send us your thoughts here[/intense_alert]