Op-Ed: “Italian Hero” In Massapequa?

Catherine Goodheart, Social Media Director

During the last week of September, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that there will be a removal of well known Christopher Columbus statues throughout NYC. Joseph Saladino, the supervisor of the Town of Oyster Bay, said that the town would take any of the unwanted Columbus statues. Other local leaders agreed with Saladino and said that the statues would proudly be displayed in the communities of the Town of Oyster Bay.

The major argument for taking the statues is that some communities like Massapequa have a large Italian-American population and consider him a “hero.” One Italian-American group in Massapequa, the Sons of Italy Lodge, would like to see the Columbus Circle statue stay, but would welcome it with open arms if necessary. Frank Gatto, a member of the lodge, said they would raise funds to put the unwanted statues in a small park better known as “The Heart of Massapequa.” Republican and United States Representative Peter King agrees and brings up more points to argue for taking the statues. He said, “Life in the 15th century was very different than it is today and you could go through every leader in American history and judge them by the standards of a different time.”

The opposing argument is that the statues should not be moved into the Town of Oyster Bay, and I agree. If all the unwanted statues of Christopher Columbus were moved into one area, massive floods of protestors would come to Long Island constantly and cause chaos. This would cause a spike in police officers being needed to preserve and guard the statues even more than usual. Protestors may try to break the statues if a peaceful protest turns violent. If much of the the major police activity was focused on the statues, it is possible that it might take away from more pressing issues.

Also, it is understandable that “times have changed” since the 15th century, but I’m very positive Columbus was able to recognize that what he was doing was wrong. He took the natives’ land and not in a very peaceful way. I am an Italian-American, but in no way do I consider Columbus a hero after learning the truth about what he did to make this country ours.  I don’t understand how some people could be so ignorant as to what is right and wrong. The time period difference should not change the fact that what he did should be recognized as immoral.

A good solution I have for preserving the statues and removing them is by putting them in museums. This would allow for them to stay preserved and heavily guarded, possibly even put in glass cases, and get them removed from the area they were unwanted. As another possible security measure, the statues could be brought to the museums, but not put on display and rather make a replica of it to be put on display. This also enables for the museum to put up facts about the statue, such as how it was made and why it was in a certain location. The facts could also branch out into talking about what happened when Columbus came to America. That does not mean the “sugar coated” answer of how he discovered America, but rather how he stole and conquered it.  A hairdresser named Lourdes Caban is from Puerto Rico and thinks of Columbus as a conqueror of the native Taino people rather than how he more widely known as in America as a discoverer. She thinks that his actual history will be swept under the rug so he can continue to be looked at as a hero in the Italian-American community. Taino validated her argument by stating the cold hard fact that, “He killed the Indians there and took their gold, so in my eyes he’s not a hero.” Columbus’ true story could be told by someone who knows what they are talking about and not told by someone with bad morals, a strong opinion, and a loud mouth.

At the time Natalie Grybauskas, a spokeswoman for the mayor, responded to Mr. Saladino and the others about their concerns by saying, “We have no plans to do anything to the Columbus statue, much less move it to Long Island.” Since September, this issue has been solved and the statues will not be moved to Long Island. I am thankful that Columbus will not be moved to Long Island and excited for the future when Columbus’ true past is eventually revealed to everyone.

* This article could not have been written without reading https://nyti.ms/2fChUe5 by Corey Kilgannon and ranting about facts and interviews based off of this article.

* photo via Google Images under the Creative Commons license