This piece is part of an ongoing series of editorials from candidates for governor of the Keystone State. Broad + Liberty is dedicated to sharing relevant information and perspectives from leaders in our region.
The observance of Columbus Day still holds special meaning for many in the Italian-American community as it celebrates the optimism and accomplishments of the Genoa-born explorer. It also represents the countless contributions of Italian descendants to American history, a record which many of us point to with pride.
Christopher Columbus set sail across the Atlantic Ocean on August 3, 1492, on an audacious voyage to discover a westward passage to the East Indies. With his three ships–Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria–Columbus could not have known what he would find, nor could he have foreseen that he would be a controversial figure 529 years later.
After stopping for repairs and supplies on the Canary Islands off the coast of northwestern Africa, Columbus led his ships on what became a five-week journey across the ocean. He reached land on October 12th on an island in the Bahamas that he called San Salvador. While he had not found a westward route to the East Indies, he had opened up the New World and laid the very beginnings of a foundation that would lead to the birth of the United States of America.
Christopher Columbus is an indelible part of our history in this country, but sadly there are many who wish to see him wiped from public memory. That this exercise in historic cleansing is being pushed by people in positions of power here in Philadelphia should be shocking to anyone.
Check out this series on Christopher Columbus by Robert Petrone.
Philadelphia was home to countless, crucial historic events and figures from the infancy of this country, and so our leaders ought to be especially attuned to the importance of recognizing the past. Unfortunately, Mayor Kenney’s administration is too often preoccupied with satisfying “woke” extremists and bending to the will of the mob, which demands that icons such as Columbus be erased from public consciousness.
The death of George Floyd during an encounter with police in Minneapolis in the summer of 2020 spurred a wave of rioting and civil unrest that swept the nation, Pennsylvania included. In the aftermath, the crowds turned to various statues and monuments to historic figures on public lands, and either demanded their removal or lawlessly demolished them themselves. In scores of instances, the mob won.
In Philadelphia, the Christopher Columbus statue in South Philadelphia’s Marconi Plaza became a prime target of those who claim that he represents genocide and other crimes, and city bureaucrats buckled. The Board of License and Inspection Review and the Historical Commission decreed that the statue would be removed.
Thankfully, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Paula Patrick overruled the board in August.
“It is baffling to this Court as to how the City of Philadelphia wants to remove the Statue without any legal basis,” she wrote. “The City’s entire argument and case is devoid of any legal foundation.”
Mayor Jim Kenney, always eager to play to the most extreme elements of the left, is appealing the ruling and has even refused to remove a plywood box that was erected around the statue.
This is what passes for leadership these days in Philadelphia, and indeed across Pennsylvania.
Kenney and his allies, District Attorney Larry Krasner, Gov. Tom Wolf, and Attorney General Josh Shapiro have sided with the radical left on a host of issues.
They have botched the COVID-19 response and harmed our economy in the process. They have stolen a year of education from our children and caused thousands of small businesses to disappear. They have supported “sanctuary cities,” which are jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. They have undermined law enforcement by endorsing the Defund the Police movement and caused violent crime to skyrocket. Yet, the city of Philadelphia is expending public resources to fight a battle over a statue of an Italian explorer from the 15th century.
Yet, the city of Philadelphia is expending public resources to fight a battle over a statue of an Italian explorer from the 15th century.
If what the intolerant left wants is a frank conversation about the history of this country, good and bad, then let us have that conversation. But their actions tell us that they want the opposite.
By their demands, we know that what they want is to erase the parts of history that they find objectionable and to shout down anyone who dares oppose them.
When I was in school, we used to recite a short poem that began, “In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” to teach us about the beginning of the American story. If the leftists have their way, not only will school children not learn about Columbus, but there won’t be statues or other remnants of his legacy to help illustrate his achievements.
Come to think of it, the box concealing the Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza is a perfect metaphor for today’s left-wing radicals. They think they can control how we all perceive the world.
Lou Barletta, former mayor of Hazleton and former member of Congress, is a Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania.