I was disappointed that no one voiced outrage for the graffiti laden message mounted on the Columbus Statue in Astoria.
That statue was actually hidden during World War II in some basement out of fear it would be melted for bullets in the war. Today, the efforts of a few politicians and individuals to remove the significance of Columbus and eliminate his importance in history is appalling and disturbing. These people are not historians, researchers or scholars. Their ignorance is as equal as it is to their arrogance.
The meaning of Christopher Columbus is simple. It is a message to all immigrants who had the courage and determination to risk it all to come to this great land with nothing but a glimmer of hope and a desire for a better future. Most immigrants fled from persecution and oppression, especially when it pertained to their religious beliefs. The significance of Columbus has two core values, which are imprinted upon us all and that is religious freedom and hope for a better life now and for generations to follow.
Of course, like any of us, Christopher Columbus had his flaws. So did many historical figures, whom we still honor, respect and value as they shaped this nation. President Abraham Lincoln was the most memorable, while credited with abolishing slavery, however, he did believe that blacks and whites should be separated.
Also, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slave owners. Should we then tear up the paper money that their faces are imprinted upon? Should we take down the White House and U.S. Capitol that was built by African- American Slaves?
How about President Theodore Roosevelt, who killed indigenous Native American Indians and Spaniards under the honored flag of the United States of America. Due to Roosevelt’s motives, the United States took land away from Native American Indians and the Spaniards.
Should we eliminate Wall Street in downtown Manhattan, which was created to keep away American Indians? Should we eliminate the name New York because the Duke of York was a huge slave owner? Should we eliminate the prestigious Fulbright and Rhodes Scholarship programs, both of which are named after individuals who traded slaves?
Do we eliminate Columbus Avenue in Manhattan, change the name of Columbia University or change the District of Columbia in Washington?
These self-proclaimed revisionists should put their intolerance aside and perhaps have a more meaningful conversation with the truth. Columbus is not just the pride of Italian-Americans, but Spanish-Americans who funded his journey to the Americas. Columbus’ mission was to spread Christianity.
Particularly in the current situation immigrants finds themselves today, the meaning of Columbus has never been more important. It is the meaning of courage to settle in this land and to be able to practice religion freely. These are the pedestals this country is founded upon
John J. Ciafone
©2017 Community News Group
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