By Claudia Tenney
History is our collective memory – it is the sum of our experiences, whether they be triumphs or tragedies, common or extraordinary.
Remembering the past does not mean we must endorse it as wholly good or ill. It was lived by imperfect beings, just like we are -– frail and fallen. They achieved great things and committed terrible offenses.
But an arrogant few want to strike down all those who fall short of their own recently discovered but unquestionably pure virtues.
In Syracuse and Utica, some want to topple a statue of Christopher Columbus for “massacring” 100 million Amerindians. In fact, Columbus and his crews were not responsible for the crimes of subsequent conquerors and settlers, let alone the diseases that truly ravaged the New World’s inhabitants.
Facts seem to be no bother to the “history eaters” who devour the heritage and legacy of others, as if completely meaningless.
Columbus’ dangerous and daring journey opened up the New World and laid the groundwork for our nation, the only one ever founded on the idea that liberty and equality are man’s birthright from God. We have not always lived up to that high-minded ideal but, we continue to strive toward “a more perfect Union.”
The French statesman Alexis de Tocqueville famously wrote, “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”
My community, which erected that monument to Columbus, is not blind to his faults, but it refuses to judge him only by his sins and erase his great feats. I, too, refuse to ignore the true facts. Instead, I seek to understand, appreciate and improve.
As Americans, we should live up to our charge – and make our nation more just and free.
The plight of Native Americans – who these erasers claim to speak for – is one place I have tried to make a difference in the now. Over the last decades, I have devoted substantial time and legal help advocating for a full-blooded Oneida Indian tribal leader for over a decade to secure his ancestral treaty land against eviction by corrupt casino interests. Mr. Melvin Phillips seeks to honor and preserve the land and culture of his ancestors from powerful and wealthy native interests who seek to cancel their noble history.
Like Melvin Phillips, who is disabled and lives modestly, the fate of millions of honorable but disempowered people is so often forgotten by the powerful and the supposed “social justice warriors.” I ask them – before they throw paint or hack at a century-old statue with a pick-axe – why don’t they build up instead of destroy? Help others who do not have power or privilege realize the promise of this country.
Killing figures like Columbus is simply erasing our imperfect history. Instead we should be writing the next chapter in bold colors.
Remember our country is not perfect, but we earnestly strive to be.
Editor’s note: Claudia Tenney is the Republican and Conservative nominee for Congress for New York’s 22nd District.