Baltimore Sun reported that a monument to Christopher Columbus had been vandalized by vandals, a perfect word to describe the members of Antifa, a group that claims to be anti-fascist but does not scruple to employ the methods of fascists, including the beating of non-violent protesters by masked, black-clad brownshirts.
The destruction of the oldest monument to Columbus in the nation occurred one week after city fathers had decided to remove “four controversial monuments: a statue of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, the Confederate Women’s monument, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument and a statue of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who authored the 1857 Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery.”
Columbus, we may state with certainty, was not a fascist. We know this because fascism dates from Mussolini’s reign in Italy, well after Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. Neither did Columbus approve of slavery; nor did his patrons, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. According to a story printed in The Hill, a Washington DC publication, “it was Spain that forbade slavery of most Native Americans and made them Spanish citizens.” The Hill also noted “that Columbus seems to have faced arrest by his fellow explorers for punishing — even executing — those who had abused Native Americans.” The zealot “most often cited in smearing Spanish exploration and with it Columbus,” The Hill noted, was “Bartolome De Las Casas … the one who proposed African slavery for the New World.”
One can’t expect the Antifa brownshirts to take notice of such exculpatory data before they deface statues or infiltrate peaceful protests for the purpose of creating havoc and suppressing free speech. Fascists, nihilists and anarchists are not likely to be dissuaded by sweet reason, which appears to infuriate them. The defacement of the Columbus monument in Baltimore was recorded on YouTube by the defacer for posterity and the delectation of fellow brownshirts.
The past, we all know, is the gateway to the future. George Orwell knew this, as do most historians. William Faulkner used to say that the past is not over; it’s not even past. Stalin, Hitler and Mao claimed the future by refashioning the past according to their ideological predispositions. Orwell’s Big Brother, patterned after Stalin, was a successful revisionist. “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past,” wrote Orwell in his novel “1984.”
Buffeted by three major forces, the Soviet Union – which, like Hitler’s Third Reich was supposed to last a thousand years – at long last began to crumble. When Pope John Paul II set his foot on Polish soil in 1979, Poland’s past, phoenix-like, rose from the ashes. Once again, the country began to live its history, which had long been suppressed by communists. Shackles on souls were loosened, minds were liberated. The publication of the Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn resurrected the real de-romanticized past of Soviet Communism, as had Khrushchev’s earlier denunciation of Stalin in a special address to Communist Party comrades three years after Stalin’s death. History’s boot was crushing the hobnailed boot of Communism.
The past is too important to leave to the new revisionists – Antifa, nihilists, masked anarchists, and the anti-Columbus crowd.
Before we can understand Antifa, America’s new fascist party, we must make an attempt to understand what fascism is. Fascism, like anarchism and nihilism, is ungoverned dynamism. It is pure spirit, void of reason, murderously directed to an end – the destruction of life, property and culture.
As early as 1914, Albert Camus tells us in his book “The Rebel,” Mussolini “proclaimed the ‘holy religion of anarchy,’ and declared himself the enemy of every form of Christianity.” Camus adds, “Men of action, when they are without faith, never believe in anything but action… To those who despair of everything” – here Camus had in mind post World War I Germany – “not reason, but only passion, can provide a faith.” Dynamism for dynamism’s sake is an act of contempt for both past and future. Camus again: “Fascism is an act of contempt, in fact. Inversely, every form of contempt, if it intervenes in politics, prepares the way for, or establishes, Fascism.”
Camus’ book, not much read in political philosophy classes these days, earned him the contempt of Sartre and other proto-communist philosophers in France. “The Rebel” should be on the bedside table of anyone in our increasingly secular culture who wants to know something about the forces arrayed against the Western experiment in liberty and law.
There are people among us – non-anarchists – who do not believe this experiment should continue, and these are dog-whistling the contemptuous enemies of the Western world, like the fellow who took a sledge hammer to the Baltimore Columbus statue. It is easy to assault a statue, more difficult to strike through the mask at the reality that lies behind it. That would require intelligence and a due regard for reason and order. But as soon as one allows oneself to be guided by reason and order, he leaves anarchism, undifferentiated dynamism, far behind him. The Antifa fascist who struck the Columbus statue in Baltimore was expressing through his thoughtless contempt for the Columbus he does not know his boiling contempt for America. And that is really the point of all these ungrateful, disordered anarchists: contempt is the opposite of gratitude.
I’d like to place one more point on the shelf before ending these comments. Columbus and those who still admire him, while conscious of the defects he shared with his own age, can never be friendly towards Klu-Kluxery. The fury of the KKK was of course directed pitilessly at African Americans. But the KKK was also contemptuous of Jews and Catholics, and this boundless contempt was expressed in violent acts against the faith of non-Protestants who were not Anglo Saxon. The African American Antifa who destroyed the Baltimore statue of Columbus was, by his act of contempt, marching hand in hand with the Klu-Klux-Klan.
So, what are we to make of someone like Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio, whose knees shake whenever Antifa whispers “fascist” or “KKK”? The mayor of New York City, still teeming with Italians, is considering removing a statue of Columbus in Columbus Circle. DeBlasio is Italian; he must have learned something about Columbus sitting on his father’s lap as a young boy. DeBlasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, is African American. Surely both know that Italians, many of them Catholic, in addition to Jews and African Americans were victims of the KKK and other deeply prejudiced Americans.
The monument in Columbus Circle was dedicated in 1941, fifty years after the largest mass lynching in U.S. history. The lynching of eleven Italian Americans occurred after a trial in which nineteen Sicilians had been indicted in the murder of New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy. The jury regarded the evidence presented at trial as highly suspect and insufficient. Six defendants were acquitted and a mistrial was declared for the remaining three because the jury failed to agree on their verdicts. A mob incited by a lawyer, William Parkerson, and led by John Wickliffe, editor of the New Delta newspaper, advanced on the prison shouting “We want the Dagoes!” and murdered the exonerated Sicilians.
Most newspapers of the day approved of the vigilanty injustice. The New York Times, covering itself in blood and shame, editorialized, “These sneaking and cowardly Sicilians, the descendants of bandits and assassins, who have transported to this country the lawless passions, the cut-throat practices, and the oath-bound societies of their native country, are to us a pest without mitigation. Our own rattlesnakes are as good citizens as they...Lynch law was the only course open to the people of New Orleans.”
The modern descendants of the lynch mob – including the KKK and Antifa – have now taken to lynching statues of Columbus, erected in part as a rebuke to lawless anarchy and the terrible silence surrounding prejudice that makes lynching possible.
I will close by pointing out that these are issues long resolved. We could let the dead bury their dead, and certainly there is no need to fight the Civil War all over again. However, the attack on Columbus is now, and always has been, an assault, waged these days mostly by nihilists and anarchists, on the very foundation of the American experiment in liberty. In law and life, silence signifies assent.
“Silence in the face of evil,” said Dietrich Bonhoeffer, hanged by Nazis in 1945, “is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Camus, an atheist, no doubt would agree. Silence in the face of anarchy and cultural dissolution is itself an approval of anarchy and cultural disintegration. In an anarchic universe, we have nothing to lose -- but everything.