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Posts Tagged ‘Columbus’

Photo: Gavin Sheridan
Built in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland, this sculpture memorializes the aid given by the Chocktaw Nation during the Great Famine.

Whether you say Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples Day, the Monday holiday is a good time to address our current problem with statues.

Are the ones getting removed all equally troubling? Take Columbus. Many Italians honor him as an explorer from their homeland. But to indigenous people, the history of his violence against their ancestors and of the diseases and exploitation that contact with Europeans brought is as painful to contemplate as Confederate statues are for the descendants of slaves.

That’s why in Boston, a frequently defaced Columbus statue is being moved to the private property of the fraternal order called Knights of Columbus.

Lately I’ve been wondering if our statue problem derives from honoring an individual. Individuals — and contemporaneous attitudes toward individuals — are more likely to be flawed than, say, a concept. Even Boston’s Abraham Lincoln statue is being removed because of the grovelling way the slave he’s freeing is depicted.

Conceptual monuments like the one to the seagulls that saved the Mormon crops from locusts could be better. Or how about the monument Ireland put up in gratitude to the Choctaw Nation for assistance in the potato famine?

But concepts can be offensive, too. Consider the Spirit of the Confederacy statue. The interesting thing about that one is that the Houston Museum of African American Culture, having decided to preserve it for teaching purposes, has actually given it a home, according to an article at Hyperallergic.

I guess my idea about avoiding monuments to individuals doesn’t really solve anything. As scientists say, “More study is needed.” Fortunately, there’s a group that’s on the case.

Philip Kennicott at the Washington Post reports, “The Mellon Foundation has announced that it will make rethinking this country’s landscape of monuments and memorials a major institutional priority, with a $250 million ‘Monuments Project’ over the next five years. …

“Says Elizabeth Alexander, president of the foundation … ‘This is not a Confederate monuments project; it is a monuments project.’ …

“That means addressing the larger issue of what values and ideas about identity are embedded in this country’s public architecture of history and memory. What is preserved, what is forgotten and what is suppressed?” So there’s that.

What do you think? Is the problem too many militaristic statues? Should public monuments focus on traits we want to encourage, like kindness, generosity, service to others? I invite you to ponder.

Photo: David McConeghy/ Flickr
The Seagull Monument located in front of the Salt Lake Assembly Hall on Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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With no wish to detract from the joy that Italians take from their countryman’s spirit of adventure or the pride that Americans feel for positive developments that followed the First Encounter, it’s hard to deny that it wasn’t the best thing for the people already living here. So without beating a drum that isn’t mine to beat, I’ll just share a gentle poem by a major Native American poet, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. It’s a poem that is good for all people.

Eagle Poem by Joy Harjo

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

More at the Poetry Foundation.

Update June 21, 2019: Joy Harjo became the first Native American US Poet Laureate in 2019. Click here.

Photo: Wikipedia
Joy Harjo in 2012.

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ICYMI (that’s twitter-speak for “in case you missed it”), a young man who decided to go on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to raise money to buy ingredients for one small potato salad got more than $55,000.

According to the Associated Press, “A man who jokingly sought $10 from a crowdfunding website to pay for his first attempt at making potato salad and ended up raising $55,000 is making good on his promise to throw a huge party.

“Zack Brown is planning PotatoStock 2014, an all-ages, charity-minded party Saturday in downtown Columbus featuring bands, food trucks, beer vendors, potato-sack races, and definitely potato salad.

“His effort on Kickstarter in early July to buy potato salad ingredients took on a life of its own and attracted worldwide attention as the amount grew.

“The 31-year-old eventually raised $55,492. The Idaho Potato Commission and corporate sponsors have donated supplies for Brown and volunteers to whip up 300 pounds of potato salad for the event.

“The Columbus Dispatch reported that Brown partnered with the Columbus Foundation to start an endowment to aid area charities that fight hunger and homelessness. The account, started with $20,000 in postcampaign corporate donations, will grow after proceeds from PotatoStock are added.” More here.

By golly, I do love quirky.

Photo: Chris Russell/The Columbus Dispatch via AP
Zack Brown’s PotatoStock 2014, an all-ages, charity-minded party, is set for Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.

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