Today, the efforts of a few politicians and individuals to remove the significance of Christopher Columbus and eliminate his importance in history is appalling and disturbing.
These people are not historians, researchers or scholars. Their ignorance is as equal as it is to their arrogance.
The meaning of Christopher Columbus is simple. It is a message to all immigrants who had the courage and determination to risk it all to come to this great land, with nothing but a glimmer of hope and a desire for a better future.
Most immigrants fled from persecution and oppression, especially as it pertained to their religious beliefs. The significance of Christopher Columbus has two core values which are imprinted upon us all, and that is religious freedom and hope for a better life, now and for generations to follow.
Of course, like any of us, Christopher Columbus had his flaws. So did many historical figures, whom we still honor, respect and value as they shaped this nation.
President Abraham Lincoln was the most memorable. While credited with abolishing slavery, he did believe that blacks and whites should be separated.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slave owners. Should we, then, tear up the paper money that their faces are printed upon? Should we take down the White House and U.S. Capitol that was built by slaves? Should we eliminate Wall Street in downtown Manhattan, which was created to keep away Native Americans.
Should we eliminate the name “York,” who was a huge slave owner? Should we eliminate the prestigious Fulbright and Rhodes Scholarship programs, both which are named after individuals who traded slaves?
Do we eliminate Columbus Avenue in Manhattan, change the name of Columbia University, or change the District of Columbia in Washington?
These self-proclaimed revisionists should put their intolerance aside, and perhaps have a more meaningful conversation with the truth. Columbus is not just a pride of Italian-Americans, but Spanish-Americans who funded his journey to the Americas.
In the current situation immigrants find themselves in today, the meaning of Columbus has never been more important. It is the meaning of courage to settle in this land.
John J. Ciafone is an attorney with a practice in Astoria.