Governor Murphy is missing the point about Christopher Columbus. The governor has stated that he supports the removal of “symbols [that] run counter to a society that works for everybody equally.” According to the governor, statues of Christopher Columbus are among those “symbols.”
Contrary to the governor’s opinion, the Dante Alighieri Society believes that the voyages of Christopher Columbus represent a tremendous human achievement. They symbolize a documented “first encounter.” That being said, the importance of Columbus’s voyages should never be trivialized. For that reason, the statues of Columbus should be allowed to remain in place. The Dante Alighieri Society vehemently opposes any effort to remove the statues of Christopher Columbus, to re-designate roadways named in honor of Columbus, and to rescind Columbus Day as a holiday.
We are not attempting to diminish the tragedies that happened during Columbus’s voyages to the New World. However, for many, the journeys of Christopher Columbus epitomize the voyages to freedom. Perhaps, taking it a step further, Columbus’s voyages represent the start of the globalization of our world. Unfortunately, significant historical events of this magnitude often encompass benefits and consequences.
Columbus has become a controversial figure; and, that controversy – many times fanned by political winds – has tarnished the seafarer’s reputation. Many proudly proclaim that Columbus was a visionary who opened up a new land of opportunity for the oppressed masses of Europe. Others denounce Columbus as an avaricious opportunist who massacred and spread disease among the indigenous people and institutionalized the slave trade in the Western Hemisphere. Without doubt, there are those who would like to see Columbus erased from the annals of history.
Columbus was a man of his time. He operated under a different set of beliefs, principles, and convictions – societal norms which would be offensive by modern standards. Consequently, we should be very careful about applying 21st- century thinking to the prevailing morality of the 15th century. As with all the great figures of the past, we need a deeper understanding of the person’s flaws. But we shouldn’t forget the tremendous changes that were made – changes that benefited humanity as a whole.
Columbus has been an enduring and endearing inspiration to all immigrants: People from far-away lands who possess the courage and determination to take a chance by coming to the New World with only a glimmer of hope and a desire for a better future for themselves and their posterity. Indeed, there are so many who owe so much to just one man: Christopher Columbus.
Columbus’s persistence to obtain support for a risky enterprise yielded results that went well beyond anyone’s imagination. For that reason, we commemorate Christopher Columbus. His ingenuity, imagination, and inspiration have fostered a period of discovery that is still very much alive today.
Albert J. Cupo and John Di Genio