Columbus sailed the ocean blue — and then got beheaded in Boston’s North End. Local governments should arrest and prosecute “protesters” who are attacking statues all across the West. Otherwise, they’re setting a precedent for the wanton destruction of art.
From Boston to Bristol, England, latter-day vandals are decapitating, spray-painting, smashing and throwing into the sea statues of fallen idols. In the South, Confederate leaders are a target; in Britain, anyone to do with the slave trade. But Columbus is the commonest trophy, largely due to his likeness’ ubiquity in town squares. The most famous, in Columbus Circle (or just plain Circle?), now has a heavy round-the-clock police guard.
To be clear: We should continue to reconsider who gets pride of place in public spaces. When I lived in New Orleans 25 years ago, I thought it was strange to ride down highways named after Jeff Davis.
All the monuments, though, had a double meaning: They were a reminder that the legacy of slavery still oppressed the country. Sure, rename the highway, but don’t erase history. Confederate statues belong in museums, with explanation, not destroyed and graffitied.
As for Columbus: Gov. Andrew Cuomo is right. Columbus was an imperfect man, to say the least. Anyone who went to elementary school in the past 40 years has heard the enlightened view. This isn’t new. But as the governor said last week, Columbus statues are as much a symbol of 20th-century Italian-American heritage as they are of Columbus.
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