Columbus statues are being trashed across America, as 1492 becomes the Year of Infamy.
Italian Americans are perplexed as to how to respond to what used to be a glorious event in human history. We, at the Italic Institute, have consistently lauded the Great Navigator and produced four educational brochures to defend his place in history. Disseminating the facts seemed to be a rational way to counter the Native American narrative that has defamed Columbus as a genocidal conqueror. But, two things have made any rational debate impossible.
The Black Lives Matter movement has overwhelmed the Native American message: Columbus is no longer just the Indigenous peoples’ boogeyman; he is the original White Supremacist who not only despoiled two American continents but Africa as well, with the introduction of slavery. Of course, Columbus never imported African slaves, but why quibble over trivialities?
The second twist in the Columbus reckoning is the shifting of academia away from Columbus as the daring genius who unified the globe, to some money-grubbing White man who happened to get lucky. Academia spread this message to new generations of Euro-Americans, who have yet to grasp the wonder of their own Western Civilization. To add to their ignorance, these teachers and students embrace anarchy as the path to a non-Western utopia. The last academic with that dream was Karl Marx – how did that work out?
So, here we are trying to stop the tide of a cultural revolution, half of whose rebels are Euro-Americans. We are not only trying to save Columbus but a pantheon of Anglo-Saxon icons, as well. But, therein lies a surprising twist: many Euro-Americans now understand that saving Columbus statues and Columbus Day must be a shared mission. This is Western Civilization at stake, not just a threat to American values. Needless to say, this is not the message being broadcast on mainstream networks and in print media. Sorry to say, you need to go to “alternate media” to get a picture of where the tide is taking us.
But, what is going on in the so-called Italian American community regarding Admiral Columbus? Has our “voice in Washington,” aka NIAF (National Italian American Foundation) been at the forefront of the Admiral’s defense? Where is the long-ballyhooed Italian American Caucus that NIAF created for political clout? If it functions at all, it’s to clink glasses at galas. The last attempt by NIAF to clarify the Admiral’s place in our community was a botched symposium a couple of years back that caused NIAF’s elite to abandon Columbus altogether. Protecting Columbus Day with their “Caucus” isn’t even an initiative. And the major Columbus monument at DC’s Union Station? That worry is left to the Parks Dept. and the Knights of Columbus.
The real yeomen of the Admiral’s crew are groups like our Italic Institute, One Voice Coalition, the Commission for Social Justice (Sons of Italy), the Columbus Citizens Foundation, and concerned clubs around the nation. We all stand for defending the man who joined two worlds. Those who have abandoned ship: most Italian Americans in academia, our so-called scholars.
Among these scholars, and a growing number of apologetic activists, is a new strategy I call “switcheroo.” They want to let Admiral Columbus down easy by literally removing him from whatever pedestals are left and installing a statue of whoever they deem inoffensive to the mob. Current candidates are Filippo Mazzei, a confidant of Thomas Jefferson who suggested the words “All men are created equal.” He also taught Jefferson Italian and viniculture. Then, there is Mother Cabrini, the nun whose works in the United States earned her sainthood. In Cleveland, some want Columbus replaced by Chef Boyardee, a local entrepreneur who first canned pasta.
All good examples of our Italic people, but there are a couple of things wrong with the switcheroo. For one, who’s paying for all these new statues – and will they be permanent? Second, will there be a federal holiday for Filippo Mazzei on October 12th? Or Mother Cabrini? Certainly not for Chef Boyardee! Frankly, Italian replacements are being peddled by a few misguided Italian American souls who think this is a grand compromise.
The switcheroo only sounds reasonable to naïve Italian Americans. The mob and revisionists want blood, not another Italian. We shall defend Columbus to the end! -JLM