Wednesday, March 1, 2017
IN MY OPINION (Column)
An Open Letter to Pepperdine University
Removing the Statue of Columbus Is Senseless
By THOMAS P. CACCIATORE
(The writer is a longstanding Pasadena attorney who is a past president of the Italian American Lawyers Association. Howard Zinn, to whom he refers, was a political science professor at Boston University, who died in 2010. His 1980 work, “A People’s History of the United States,” unfavorably depicted explorer Christopher Columbus.)
Dear Pepperdine University,
I was very disappointed to receive news that the university has succumbed to the pressure from protesters for the removal of the statue of Christopher Columbus at your fine university.
I was on the committee of the Quincentenary celebrating the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s voyage to the New World. We were aware of protests at that time over the same issues.
Columbus is remembered for many reasons, but primarily for the fact that he made the first meaningful connection between continental Europe and the Western Hemisphere, the old world and the New World, at least from a European perspective. If it wasn’t Columbus, certainly someone else would have done it.
But in fact, it was Columbus…and therefore he is worthy of honor and remembrance.
Yes, I know that earlier history books gloss over the inadvertent transmission of illnesses to people who had no immunities for such illnesses, and it is probably fair to say that illnesses and diseases were transferred from the indigenous people to the explorers who in turn brought those illnesses back to the European continent. Both are hard to know about but most likely true. It is well known that ships that come from Africa to the Americas and then to Asia (and vice versa) inadvertently bring mollusks and plants and animals that cause damage to other continents. None of this is intended, but it happens anyway.
As social scientists and particularly economists tell us today, the motivation of a person like Columbus was economic. He was looking for treasure. He was looking for opportunity. He was looking for gold. He was much like one attending the university (beyond the love of a broadening education) looking for opportunity, looking for future treasure, looking for a way to make it in the world.
And we also know that in the years that Columbus and other explorers from Europe arrived in the northern hemisphere, they discovered indigenous people committing unbelievable cruelties to other tribes of indigenous people. We know that Aztecs sacrificed young virgins by cutting their hearts out in temples, simply to appease the gods. Other cruelties abounded. Slavery among the tribes was well known. And women’s rights? Could we even imagine such a thing in those days? Such were the times. Not pretty, not sweet, not without hardship.
Howard Zinn and others would have us judge Columbus and other explorers by today’s standards.
Would Mr. Zinn have us judge the indigenous people by those same modern standards? I think not.
I knew the people who founded your law school, who have long since passed on. Edward DiLoreto, Judge Harry Shafer, Justice Vincent Dalsimer. I knew some of the people who contributed the statue of Columbus. I can assure you that they would be extremely disappointed by your “metro-modern” decision.
I encourage you and ask you to please show courage and reconsider your decision to remove the statue of Christopher Columbus on your campus. Christopher Columbus was no saint. He was a man of his times. Those times were not pretty, and tidy and sweet. Your students need to learn a broader lesson than the one Howard Zinn teaches. Your students need to learn that history must be put in perspective.
Your students need to learn that Woodrow Wilson was a great man in spite of certain racial feelings he had. I’ve been advised that currently at Princeton University there is a move afoot to remove the statue of Woodrow Wilson from the campus because he expressed negative racial stereotypes. Such were those times. It is certainly worth educating about. It is certainly worth talking about. But Woodrow Wilson had many great qualities.
Each of us has our flaws as well as our finer characteristics. I would suggest that students need to know that, and not get a distorted picture of the real world if they are to be competitive in it.
You are a university, not a day care center, not a kindergarten, and not a safe place for every prissy sensibility. Please act like a university.
For Pepperdine to reverse their decision now would create a national and powerful story of university courage in the face of political correctness.
Please show to the nation that you do have courage and can make a decision to stand up to shortsighted, and actually juvenile thinking. They are more than your customers. They are students and they need to learn even unpleasant lessons.
Copyright 2017, Metropolitan News Company