Notre Dame To Cover Up Historic Painting Of Columbus

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I have been writing and speaking about the movement to remove statues that range from confederate leaders to Columbus to Supreme Court justices to Founders (here and here and here and here).  This includes the calls for the removal of monuments to George Washington and Columbus. Now, the University of Notre Dame President John Jenkins has announced that a historic mural by Luigi Gregori will be covered up due to objections to the harm caused to Native Americans by Columbus and those who followed him. The famous mural depicting Columbus’ life and exploration was completed in around 1882. As should not come as a surprise to many on this blog, I view the decision as a mistake and a missed opportunity.

President John Jenkins wrote to students and faculty that “as we prepare to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day . . . at Notre Dame, I write to let you know of a recent decision.” He noted that “[m]any have come to see the murals as at best blind to the consequences of Columbus’ voyage for the indigenous peoples who inhabited this ‘new’ world and at worst demeaning toward them . . . ” Accordingly, the university will cover up the mural. He explained that “many have come to see the murals as at best blind to the consequences of Columbus’ voyage for the indigenous peoples who inhabited this ‘new’ world and at worst demeaning toward them.”

I can understand that objection. However, rather than literally covering up a historic art piece, the University had the opportunity for a learning experience in placing works near the piece that give a more accurate representation of the period. It could also include discussion of the controversy and the decision to preserve a historical art piece while extending the context around the piece to address these issues.

There is no denying Columbus’ historical significance.  Millersville University professor Thomas Tirado wrote in 2000 that “It is nearly impossible to over-exaggerate the historical significance of Christopher Columbus.  The ultimate expression of the Columbian Legacy has been nothing less than global in its impact.”

Our art often captures our struggle for equality and truth. While originally meant as a celebration of Columbus, it now represents something different for different people. That contemporary meaning is part of the power of public art pieces. They often treat a lesson not intended by the original artists but perhaps of greater importance to our generation.

Jenkins’ letter could well have been memorialized in nearby representations and placards: “whatever else Columbus’ arrival brought, for these peoples it led to exploitation, expropriation of land, repression of vibrant cultures, enslavement, and new diseases causing epidemics that killed millions.” 

So the mural will no longer be visible in the hallway due to woven coverings that will leave the aged art intact underneath. At least it will not be destroyed and perhaps a later Administration will see the value in both preserving and explaining historical works.

68 thoughts on “Notre Dame To Cover Up Historic Painting Of Columbus”

  1. There is still a lot of anger and emotional healing to be done. At least it is being covered and not destroyed. There remains a hope for an opportunity to reframe and establish a more wholistic look back at the Empiring of this Country. Meanwhile, will we stop attacking other Countries for resource acquisition? Therein lies the current hypocrisy….

    1. I disagree. How much anger, hurt, and healing would be required to address the tower of human skulls, tens of thousands of men, women, and children killed by the Aztecs? And those are just the bones they used for decorative purposes. Did they ascribe to the notion that the eternal owners of the land are the descendants of those who first lived there?

      What about the Iroquois nation who took land from their neighbors, wiping entire tribes out of existence?

      Should the Maori atone for cannibalizing their enemies and taking their land? Perhaps they owe restitution to the descendants of those they disenfranchised, terrorized, tortured, and ate?

      What do the descendants of the tribes in Africa who sold their enemies to Portugese slavers owe to the descendants of slaves?

      Should the Black Hills be returned to the Sioux or the Cheyanne?

      Considering a large portion of China has the genes of the prolific rapist Ghengis Khan, I’d say quite a few apologies are owed.

      Were it not for Columbus, the Aztecs would have killed millions of people. Perhaps all of America would be Aztec at this point. However, if Columbus never sailed the ocean blue, it is highly unlikely that no European ever would have discovered America. After all, the Vikings may have. What happened in America when a stronger tribe in need or want of new territory encountered a weaker one? They took their land, and often enslaved survivors. Many tribes kept sex slaves, as well. Human nature is universal. No matter where our species existed, we have the same capacity for good or evil. Tribes were no more inherently noble than anyone in Europe. Their customs and attitudes were shaped by their experiences and availability of resources. You can bet that when the herds moved on, tribes didn’t genteelly starve. They clashed. In fact, there are many tribes no longer in existence because other tribes wiped them completely out.

      I choose not to live in the past. I don’t believe in holding the US responsible for settling America and its past in slavery, while ignoring the fact that the entire rest of the world, including Native Americans, also conquered land and engaged in slavery. In fact, there are some tribes that valued courage in the face of great pain to the extent that being taken captive was…highly unpleasant. There is a selective hostility applied to modern America that is not aimed anywhere else. Slavery still exists in Africa today, but you don’t really hear that discussed. African tribes sold slaves to Europeans, because slavery was a long-standing tradition there, and is still rather common in some African nations. The US and England were at the forefront of finally abolishing that hateful practice while over a hundred years later, it’s still going strong in Africa. That’s a bit ironic, isn’t it? Affirmative Action policies preferentially give opportunities to people on the basis of African ancestry, alone, without taking into account that one may be a recent immigrant from Africa and a recent slave owner, while also being black. In an effort to atone for the atrocity of slavery, a benefit could be given to an actual slave owner, or a descendent of someone who sold the slaves to the Portuguese who sold them to America. In addition, there are Caucasians in America today whose ancestors were never involved in black slavery.

      The past happened. A lot of bad things happened, including slavery and the Holocaust. Being a woman wasn’t much fun because they had no property rights, could be committed on a husband’s whim, forced into marriage, left destitute with the loss of her husband, and often died in childbirth. Being a man wasn’t much fun because they fought and died in all the wars, could be drafted against their will, unless they were wealthy they didn’t have access to education, without which they were doomed to be forever poor, they could usually not marry above their station, the poor had to sleep with the livestock in winter for warmth, they worked themselves to death, and in England they could be kidnapped off the street, pressed into the Royal Navy, and their family would starve until and unless he was able to post home prize money and a bit of pay months later. We should learn from the mistakes, deprivations, and calamities of history and move forward rather than hate each other for what happened hundreds of years ago. Don’t anachronistically judge past people by today’s standards.

      I posit that the reason why there is so much anger is because the Democrats keep pushing the victimhood narrative upon minorities. It’s the splinter they keep jabbing in their side. Instead of saying you can be anything you want to if you apply yourself, they instead claim that your life will never get any better because slavery and white people. Ugh. What a horrid way to look at life.

      6 million people died in the Holocaust. The Diaspora lasted for hundreds of years and anti-Semitism was nearly global. Most Jewish people will never forget the history of the Holocaust, but no one is saying they cannot succeed in life because of it, or the lengthy, global history of anti-Semitism, or because there are some anti-Semites alive today. You remember history so as (hopefully) not to repeat it. It would be self defeating to apply identity politics or hate everyone because of that terrible history. Would it be right for the DNC to promote Jewish people showing open hostility to Americans of German or Austrian descent?

      People need to get along, and find commonality instead of using identity politics to gauge worth. I do not like this anger nurtured generation after generation for wrongs hundreds of years old. That is not the path towards community.

    2. Meanwhile, will we stop attacking other Countries for resource acquisition?

      More venomous incoherence from you.

  2. Everything in moderation. Including moderation of comments. The people of America need to stand up against pedophile priests.

    1. One thing that has been obscured is that a lot of the priest molestation stories were not strictly pedophilia, they were rather what is called ephoebophilia, that is to say, the seduction of adolescents and young men, not pre-pubertal boys. The state laws usually recognize, for example, a lesser penalty for sexual activity with someone 12-18, than a stronger activity for someone under 12. Society feels there is a difference qualitatively, between an adult molesting a child, and an adult molesting a youth, ie, a teenager under the age of consent .That is not for me to judge but only describe here.

      I believe that it comes from the inclination of both homosexuals and heterosexuals to be attracted to youth. Even a normal heterosexual man may find a sexually mature young woman with an ample bosom and so forth to be attractive, even under the age of consent, and this is not generally considered a perversion. Provided the urge is not acted upon. There is an analogy for homosexuals. Puberty is a biological dividing line there.

      But in all the attacking of the Church for its contemptible and wrong harboring and protecting of molesters, there is rarely the discussion of any such qualitative difference. And I believe, it is because the homosexual lobby wants to pretend that there is no culture of attraction to young men by homosexuals. That is totally false. Of course there is based on thousands of years of culture well knowing precisely that going back to the myth of Zeus and Ganymede.

      I bring this up in connection with Notre Dame because it is a university and universities since they have the young men are perennial fields of seduction for older homosexuals. And any wordly person knows this. And yet Notre Dame has pretended the problem did not exist. And it still does.

      But instead of addressing more major sins like the homosexuals preying on young men, or the girls who are encouraged to service the football and basketball heroes, or the endemic alcoholism on campus, now they are going to fix the murals that depict Columbus in a bad light. Hypocrites, frauds, and scoundrels!

      Why it kind of reminds me of how they preach Catholic social justice and paying a fair wage to workers, but then under John Affleck Graves, executive VP, they outsourced all the formerly w-2’d landscaping and lawn mowing staff, to contractors. Contractors who surely paid less than the university and gave no benefits. But Affleck Graves was congratulated and the wimps and sissies and social justice warriors all kept their mouths shut about it because that meant a bigger budget for them. Screw the lawn mower dudes! That’s how whining hypocrites work. But a lot of stupid people get sucked into voting for them and pretending they are really righteous “advocates”. . ..

  3. ( President John Jenkins wrote to students and faculty )

    Pres J Jenkins is either another of these compromised azzholes or an insane sick b*stard, in either case he should be removed from any position of power.

    Mass insanity has spread to many pre Trump, past time to pull them all.

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