Guest Op-Ed: Taking Down the Christopher Columbus Statue was the Wrong Move

By Richard Smigielski

In the last few days and weeks the conversations in the neighborhoods of Chelsea have centered on a few important topics. Some of them include: Have you been able to get the COVID-19 vaccine yet? Another: how do you feel about the crises and human tragedy situation created by Joe Biden and his administration at the southern boarder? Also, but not surprisingly: why did the City take down the Christopher Columbus statue in Chelsea Square?  The last question and discussion seem to strike a serious chord among the people in our community.  As an woman stated to me a few days ago on a Saturday morning: “I’m depressed…I just walked through Chelsea Square and saw the Columbus statue laying in the back of a City truck!  Why would the City take down a piece of history?  Why are they destroying our history!”

One has to wonder why the City Council voted 9-2 to remove the statue and destroy a representation of history.  In the last 40 years liberal, left wing, Neo-Marxist educators have written books, taught and propagandized the American people to believing that Christopher Columbus was an evil man. True, there are numerous negative aspects of the effects of his voyages. The use of torture and mutation of people when governing Hispaniola and his use of slavery and the spreading of deadly diseases are recorded as a result of his voyages.  However, his achievements and accomplishments are considered absolutely unmatched by most Historians. Because of Columbus the “Columbian Exchange” (the recognized historical impact concept of Columbus’s explorations and resulting achievements) can be viewed as simply amazing, for it changed the world forever. The Columbian Exchange of animals, plants,  human technology, ideas and human populations transformed how humans interact and prospered. The Columbian Exchange brought to the Americas the coffee bean, citrus fruits, onions, grains such as rice, wheat and oats, and Livestock such as pigs, the horse, cattle and sheep, and yes, diseases as well. To Europe, the Exchange brought the potato, peppers, peanuts, cassava, sweet potato, cacao bean, tomato, corn, beans, turkey and much more. Concepts of human invention, technology and medicine was readily shared by people and improved upon to advance societies and cultures in Africa, Europe and the Americas. The Columbian Exchange can be viewed as one of the most incredible and important events in the history of mankind, all the results of the endeavor of one man and his explorations. But probably the most important idea brought to us through the Columbian Exchange was the future path and idea of a new way of governing with the concept of freedom and liberty and the formation of our Constitution and the creation of the United States of America, the greatest most successful nation in history.

So why would the City Council, except for two Councilors, vote to take down the Columbus statue? Are they followers of political “group think” and cancel culture now sweeping across our country? If a group in power determines to disqualify a historical figure based on its own definition of a social norm and then disapprove practices of the past social norm then we, as a society, will not have any figures to commemorate for a source of inspiration. Also, the  “group think” is probably being driven more by politics than by merit, so a person’s place and time become an excuse for stripping him or her of recognition and inspiration. In the future, if a group of liberal progressives think about tearing down a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr., because of his adulteries and other indiscretions, would that be acceptable as what happened to the statue of Christopher Columbus? Or, if in the distant future, a theocracy or a religious group dominates our government and feels that crosses on buildings are unacceptable to its society norms and votes to have them removed, will that be acceptable? If you think that can’t happen to a country, just study and review what happened in Germany in the 1930s and you may have second thoughts.

Two City Councilors, Todd Taylor and Giovanni Recupero, voted against removing the Columbus statue and should be recognized and supported for their historical academic beliefs. The verbal attacks they have suffered from young people during the Council meetings and after the meetings, discussing this issue, were simply wrong. Mr. Taylor was accused of being a white supremacist because of his race and historical interpretation. Mr. Recupero was told, as recorded in the Chelsea Record, “Giovanni, you need to apologize for teaching your children to hate themselves. Second, no one with an Italian name from their prejudiced father should be talking…” These statements are simply outrageous and should be condemned. Those statements are made by those who want to suppress freedom of speech and liberty when it doesn’t meet their political orientation and ideology. Importantly, what cultural direction is our city now engaged in? It now seems, with the removal of a statue, a majority of the City Council has submitted to the movement of the craze of cancel culture. Sadly, traditional historical movements are now ignored and replaced with the acts of political progressives who want to politicize everything, engage in identity politics and destroy and weaken our consciousness of history. These progressive ideas are rooted in the concepts of Neo-Marxism and if this progressive leftist movement continues, it is a dangerous path for all of us.

Mr. Smigielski is an Educator,ÊHistorian, Archaeologist and Researcher of Ancient AmericanÊNative Indian Cultures. Also,Êhe was anÊInstructorÊin the Sociology Department ofÊformer Boston State College and a teacher in the Boston Public School System.

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