Tag Archives: Christopher Columbus

Uncovering the REAL Columbus

Christopher Columbus is a hard guy to get to know. After all, he lived more than 500 years ago, and much of his story has been told by or through others. In the end, everything depends on who’s doing the telling, what they’ve decided to say or leave out, and why. Much of the debate nowadays is dominated by polar extremes, with vehement detractors embracing an often-false narrative in order to vilify Columbus and passionate apologists frequently downplaying the darker aspects of his legacy to paint a rosier picture. I found myself in the apologists’ camp early on in my …

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Conquest in the 15th century

Conquest and subjugation were the order of the day in the 15th century. Most societies back then were ruled by monarchs who had absolute power over their people, controlling every aspect of their lives and brooking no dissent. Many of those monarchs were intent on extending their dominion to adjacent and distant lands, or on taking back lands previously seized from them. And though methods varied, none were particularly benign. During that fractious century, the French expelled British occupiers from their soil, Spain did the same to the Muslims, Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks, the Mali Empire was laid …

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Countering the critics

Columbus’ detractors would have us believe that he was a genocidal slave trader who tyrannized natives and settlers alike and stopped at nothing to turn a profit and subjugate the islands. If you read the source material closely, though, all that dissolves into inaccuracy. The worst offenders were Howard Zinn, author of “A People’s History of the United States,” and James W. Loewen, who penned “Lies My Teacher Told Me.” Playing fast and loose with the truth at almost every turn, they offered no real proof for many of their assertions, often serving up quotes that were taken wildly out …

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Charting a new course

My quest for the truth about Christopher Columbus has led me to more discoveries than I could possibly have imagined. I knew a few things before I embarked, of course: that Columbus set the gold standard for perseverance and courage, that his first voyage was an act of navigational brilliance and that the world was forever changed by it. I also knew the countless misdeeds attributed to him couldn’t all be true. Until I dug much deeper, though, I had no idea how wrong the naysayers were. The Columbus I’ve come to know was a staunch advocate for native rights …

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Triumph of the spirit

This year’s Columbus Day celebration in Chicago might not have been the biggest ever, but it certainly was the most remarkable. Absolutely everything conspired against it, from the slow pace of city approval to forecasts of rain and fears of protests that kept some on the sidelines. But permits were finally issued; a promotional blitz ensued; and floats, cars, bands and other marching units were rallied in weeks instead of months. On Oct. 11, a lone bus arrived at Casa Italia along with a gray dawn to shepherd the intrepid to morning Mass at Our Lady of Pompeii Shrine. Fr. …

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JCCIA files suit to restore statue to Arrigo Park

The Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans has filed a complaint in the Chancery Court of Cook County against the Chicago Park District in an effort to return the Columbus statue to its original location in Arrigo Park. “On July 24, 2020, it is believed that Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered the removal of the city’s three Columbus statues, claiming it as a safety measure during protests and civil unrest,” the JCCIA noted in a press release. “It was to be ‘temporary,’ and the JCCIA’s position is that a year is long enough.” “We have reached out to the park district …

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The anti-Columbus playbook is unraveling

The tide is turning in New York and across the country as Italian Americans mobilize to counter a jaded political formula. The strategy was straightforward: To score political points, all one needed to do was remove a Columbus statue, look the other way when one was illegally toppled or simply rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. The formula worked for years, the blowback was containable and many media outlets, sympathetic to the anti-Columbus movement, didn’t kick up much of a fuss. But quite a bit has changed over the past 12 months, as Italian-American organizations have continued to mobilize …

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Reframing the Columbus debate

Columbus’ voyages challenge our concept of history. On the one hand, we have the heroic notion of Columbus sailing the ocean blue to discover a new world. On the other, we have the revisionist interpretation of Columbus as a perpetrator of genocide. In between is a full range of facts, questions and interpretations that make history the fascinating discipline it is. First and foremost, Christopher Columbus was a man of his times. And like all of us, he was an imperfect mortal. He embodied the spirit of enterprise then emerging in Europe, but his pursuit of material gain had a …

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Community takes fight for Columbus to next level

Jan. 14, 2021, was a landmark day for the Chicago-area Italian-American community. That’s when we took a quantum leap forward in our efforts to undo the false narrative that threatens to permanently sweep Christopher Columbus from the local landscape. We’ve had great turnouts at press conferences, strategy sessions and rallies, but this was the first time we “entered the lion’s den,” and we comported ourselves admirably. The occasion was a Zoom meeting sponsored by the city of Chicago to field input regarding the future of the city’s many statues, Columbus’ among them. With key decision makers from the city slated …

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Charting a new course for Christopher Columbus

I’m so proud to be writing to you as the new president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. It’s a sacred trust I take as seriously as anything I’ve ever done. I have big plans for our venerable organization, and there will be plenty of time to share those with you in the coming months. Right now, though, we need to bear down on a time-sensitive matter of the utmost importance. As you know, Christopher Columbus has come under increasing fire both locally and nationally, with statues toppling across the country and Columbus Day getting the axe at …

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