News & Politics

And Then They Came for Columbus

Activists standing along 5th Avenue in New York display a sign in favor of keeping the statue of Christopher Columbus during the annual Columbus Day Parade on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

The “peaceful” mobs here and around the world protesting police brutality have taken a particular dislike to statues for some reason. Now, many statues in recognition of “great men” deserve to be taken down. Many men they recognize aren’t “great” at all and some are downright evil.

The pictures of Saddam Hussein’s statue being torn down by jubilant Iraqis are particularly gratifying for those Americans who still think such things are noteworthy. And statues of Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin should be consigned to the dustbin of history along with their odious Communist ideology. Hopefully, statues of Fidel Castro and his henchman Che Guevera are not too long for the world.

A modern liberal might argue that Lenin and Stalin freed the Russian peasants from the yoke of oppression and feudalism of the czars and Castro taught the Cuban masses to read while Che inspired millions to revolt all over Latin America.

And Mussolini made the trains run on time.

We judge people throughout history by weighing the good against the bad, the meaningfulness of their accomplishments versus the foulness of their deeds. Certainly, on any rational scale the balance tips unfavorably for Saddam, Lenin, Stalin, Castro, and Che.

But Robert E. Lee? Jefferson Davis? If you’re going to condemn those men for holding racist, white supremacist views, then the memorials to Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, and anyone else born before 1960 should be destroyed. That includes all the great white men and women of history who weren’t “woke.”

Instead, the mobs are picking and choosing whose memory should be wiped clean from history. Anyone a majority of Americans admire and look up to needs to be erased unless they’re black and relatively non-controversial. I imagine some Black Lives Matter protesters even look with a jaundiced eye on Martin Luther King, who reportedly treated women like dirt and did not support gays and lesbians.

But some flaws are excusable. Not, apparently, the very flawed and complicated Christopher Columbus, whom the mobs turned their anger on last night.

The Hill:

Statues of Christopher Columbus were targeted by protesters in Massachusetts and Virginia on Tuesday night in an act of solidarity with indigenous peoples.

The 8-foot-tall memorial to the explorer in Richmond, Va., was pulled down with ropes and dragged roughly 200 yards to nearby Landing at Foundation Lake, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It was also reportedly briefly lit on fire.

The base of the statue was covered in graffiti, and protesters held signs reading “This land is Powhatan land” and “Columbus represents genocide.”

I guess even a rudimentary knowledge of history isn’t a prerequisite to being “woke.” Columbus, of course, didn’t land anywhere near Massachusetts. The Pilgrims did. Columbus never set foot on land now part of the United States.

Meanwhile, a mob in Boston beheaded a Columbus statue.

Columbus is easily one of the most unlovely of heroes. He was vain, arrogant, opinionated, and was apparently such a tyrant toward his crews that they marooned him on one of his trips back to the New World.

He was, even by standards of his day, cruel and unjust. His travelogue, published when he returned which led to the rush to colonize the Americas, was spectacularly exaggerated and inaccurate. His treatment of Native Americans was a blot on his life that can’t be erased.

And yet, he ventured where no European or Muslim or Oriental dared to go: across the ocean to the land between what became known later as the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Is that enough to make up for his numerous sins? Do the scales even come close to balancing?

I suppose it depends on one’s point of view. The massive amounts of wealth, the peoples who benefitted from his journey, and its subsequent publicizing cannot be dismissed. The billions who followed him — the overwhelming majority willingly, some unwillingly — have contributed unimaginable amounts of knowledge, spirit, goodness, and yes, evil to the human family.

I just wish the totality of Columbus’s life and contributions could be discussed. But that takes rational thinking and careful consideration. This is not only beyond the ability of the mob, it’s apparently beyond the ability of the individuals who make up the mob and their rancid supporters.