Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Saving Christopher Columbus From the Cultural Arsonists

The movement to deface and destroy our heritage and heroes must be fought by conservatives at every turn.

Last year, in my annual commemoration of Columbus Day for The American Conservative, I described the holiday’s detractors as “cultural arsonists” who seek the erasure of the historic American nation’s history and symbols. This past summer, those societal dregs embraced the destruction they’d yearned for all along.

Since George Floyd’s death in May, the most pernicious among us have exploited an opportunity to take to the streets and destroy with impunity. Their targets have included monuments, especially ones to Christopher Columbus, as well as businesses, homes, and livelihoods.

A Columbus statue in Boston was decapitated—for the second time since it was erected in 1979—and then removed by the city. In 1927, the first statue of Columbus in the southern United States was erected in Richmond, Virginia, despite opposition from the anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klan; 90 years later, channeling similar hatreds, vandals tore down the statue, set it on fire, and threw it into a lake. It was joined by a Columbus statue in Baltimore’s Little Italy, which was tossed into the inner harbor. To add insult to injury, the Baltimore City Council is looking to rededicate the city’s Columbus Obelisk—erected in 1792, the United States’ oldest monument to Columbus—as the “Victims of Police Violence Monument.”

To promote greater tolerance, understanding, and opportunity for Italian immigrants, sculptor Carlo Brioschi contributed statues of Christopher Columbus to beautify American cities, one in his adopted home of St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1931, and another in Chicago in 1933. The former was pulled down by Native Americans (as state troopers apathetically watched) and the latter was removed by orders of Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

In less than six months, over 36 statues of Christopher Columbus have been removed from the public square by either the mob’s chain or mayor’s edict. It’s not unlike the Reign of Terror, where statues of saints were guillotined to obliterate any memory of pre-revolutionary France.

These curs have a new revolution in mind, one that repudiates anything that doesn’t adhere to the twisted ethics of the progressive left. That includes the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, where our nation had the sense of mind (and identity) to venerate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ voyage. The Chicago World’s Fair—also known as the Columbian Exposition—was one of the most significant cultural events in U.S. history, with profound effects on architecture, entertainment, and the adoption of new technology. One of the most popular exhibits was the life-size replicas of Columbus’ three ships—the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria—which were constructed in Spain before they sailed to Chicago, where they performed a theatrical rendition of the European arrival.

Past generations of Americans understood greatness and why it’s commendable, unlike the thankless iconoclasts of today. Paying homage to the men and women of the past is about recognizing and appreciating extraordinary feats. The grandeur of Columbus is succinctly encapsulated by 1970s comedian and television host Flip Wilson. “As a kid, my idol—and he’s still my idol—of all the great American heroes, my idol is Christopher Columbus,” Wilson jovially told a comedy club audience. “What a great thing that was, discovering America. I wouldn’t have found it. I don’t know where you people would have been, I wouldn’t have found it.”

The sledgehammer reckoning isn’t only destined for navigators either. “Our Taliban have moved on, past Columbus and the Confederate generals, to dislodge and dishonor the Founding Fathers and their patriot sons,” wrote this magazine’s co-founder Pat Buchanan. Weak-willed conservatives who for decades have been too cowardly to defend Columbus or the Confederate soldier are receiving their earned punishment. These cultural arsonists now seek to expunge the Founding Fathers from the American consciousness.

“Slave owners should not be honored with monuments in public spaces. We have museums for that, which also provide better context,” writes columnist Charles Blow in The New York Times. That would include 10 of the first dozen U.S. presidents, including the author of the Declaration of Independence, the father of the Constitution, and the namesake of the nation’s capital.

According to Blow, human history is nothing more than a “horrible truth,” undeserving of remembrance or admiration. Blow himself is motivated by a moral absolutism that he is either unable or unwilling to separate from the past. While Blow is correct that morality is both universal and undeniable, his preference to live a desolate, ahistorical existence is nothing short of ghoulish.

Blow’s cohort is composed of our society’s mediocrities—the corporate press, the phony academics, the diversity consultants and race hustlers—who malign Christopher Columbus and his kin because achievement is intolerable to their insecurities.

This caste is represented politically by people like Senator Tammy Duckworth, who supports “having a national dialogue” on whether or not monuments of George Washington should be smashed since “we should listen to the argument there.” How can one reconcile Duckworth’s service in the U.S. Army with her clear antipathy for the American nation and its founders? It’s because Tammy Duckworth is a soldier for military empire—not a living nation—who wears her approximation of American identity like second-hand clothes.

In his Fourth of July message, Democratic nominee Joe Biden promised he’d “rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country.” Biden’s auxiliaries have been clear that racism in the United States goes as deep as its soul. European colonization was genocide, and Christopher Columbus its primary architect. The existence of the historic American nation is a disgrace that must be blotted out, along with its heritage, traditions, and heroes.

Remember that this November. Your ancestors will be on the ballot.

Happy Columbus Day.

Hunter DeRensis is assistant editor at the Libertarian Institute and a regular contributor to The American Conservative. You can follow him on Twitter @HunterDeRensis.