Columbus should retain his high perch in Manhattan (Bergen Record)

Rosario A. Iaconis Published 8:29 a.m. ET Sept. 19, 2017


Declaring war on Christopher Columbus will do nothing to eradicate racism, sexism, hate crimes or income inequality in America. The ugly events in Charlottesville, Virginia, exposed deep racial fissures in our body politic. But demolishing what New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito terms “symbols of hate” is counterproductive.

Indeed, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio may rue the day he appointed a commission to decide which statues and sculptures are “oppressive.” Such historical revisionism by government fiat smacks of the Orwellian. And it can only lead to more divisiveness, alienating middle-class voters who might otherwise turn away from the GOP’s robber-baron economics.

Democrats who fail to heed commentator Paul Begala’s admonition regarding President Donald Trump’s diversionary tactics in this matter are making a monumental mistake. So when Hizzoner contemplates expunging the 76-foot Columbus Circle statue of Columbus – thereby disfiguring Gotham’s iconic cityscape – he is “driving straight into a trap Trump has set.” In truth, the condemnation of Columbus is a war on history.

The leader of the perilous trek across the wine-dark Atlantic represents the triumph of humanism writ large. It marked the rebirth of the classical vigor of antiquity that we know as the Italian Renaissance.  And this Rinascimento sparked a sea change in the tide of human events, leading to our complex modernity.

Like Amerigo Vespucci, Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) and Giovanni da Verrazzano, Cristoforo Colombo hailed from the land John Milton called “the seat of civilization and the hospitable domicile of every species of erudition.”  Indeed, Italy was the epicenter of the Renaissance.

This epochal intellectual revolution gave rise to modern science, art, architecture, accounting, good governance, capitalism and, yes, the Age of Exploration.

Absent the Columbian Exchange, there would be no American Republic – a polity dedicated to the notion that “All men are created equal.” (Filippo Mazzei bequeathed this foundational credo to Thomas Jefferson.)

Moreover, absent Columbus (and his fellow Italian explorers), our more perfect union – with its tripartite government, Constitution and separation of powers – might never have emerged. For the founders based their nascent republic of laws on the ancient Roman model.

And absent the Great Navigator – and the scientific discoveries of Galileo Galilei and Leonardo da Vinci – President John F. Kennedy could never have said to his fellow Americans: “We choose to go to the moon.”

Like the founding fathers, Abraham Lincoln and FDR, Columbus was a complex figure. Vainglorious and authoritarian, he nonetheless altered the fate of humankind – for the better.

Paul Claudel hailed Cristoforo Colombo as the élargisseur du monde: “he who widened the world.”

For as Paolo Emilio Taviani, author of “Columbus: The Great Adventure,” explained: “The Columbian discovery was of greater magnitude than any other discovery or invention in human history. It was after Columbus’s voyages that the task of integrating the American continents into Greco-Roman-Christian-European culture was carried out. Notwithstanding errors, egoism, and unheard-of violence, the discovery was an essential, in many ways the determining, factor in ushering in the modern age.”

Repudiating the “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” is rank revisionism that calls to mind George Orwell: “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

Rosario A. Iaconis is an adjunct professor in the Social Sciences Department of Suffolk County Community College.

4 thoughts on “Columbus should retain his high perch in Manhattan (Bergen Record)”

  1. You would do well to leave your politics out of an otherwise erudite attempt to educate the citizenry and exalt our history. Saying that the GOP are “robber barons”, and that we should heed the admonition of the embarrassingly partisan Paul Begala, and that Trump is “setting a trap” for DiBlasio is amazingly naive and, ironically, divisive in its own right. It is the Democrats who are nakedly pandering for votes by seeking to remove statues and rewrite our history, both Italic and American. Don’t worry about the middle class; they are seeing things clearer than you.

  2. Great blog Rosario, and only wish the Mayor would see the light. We CANNOT change history! It is simple and clear, but we can build on it, respect the good and then amend the mistakes of the past but IN the present. Simply put, Columbus was a Discoverer in all ways for he saw what he saw and returned to tell the story, and then returned to his site/s. He “opened” a New World that has never been the same. And, he even worked WITH Native Indians there but NOT here in North America, and so why the cry! It is absolutely ridiculous to even think of removing a statue such as Columbus. There are far more serious concerns in our City, State and Country….the Mayor should be aware of them!

  3. I believe that injecting baldfaced parisan politics into this blog is a mistake. The Columbus Day and Columbus statue controversies are driven in large measure by the overall “bad America” mantra of the political left, that would also like to see the influence of Greco/Roman culture come tumbling down as well.

  4. Bravo Rosario. One can only hope that your researched, intelligent, and factually correct piece has a positive impact on this situation.

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