The PC thought police have been gunning for Christopher Columbus for years.
In the wake of the great civil – and, at times, violent - unrest we’ve seen in our country lately, it’s unsurprising that Columbus would once again resume his role as a proxy for every leftist grievance. All around the country, statues of Columbus have been destroyed and defaced all in the name of “progress.” Our statue in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania was among these incidents, left unceremoniously graffitied this week by vandals.
Beyond these protests, Columbus is a symbol of Italian pride and also the American spirit of exploration that has driven our country for almost 250 years.
And while this may come to a surprise to coastal elites, he means a great deal to the people where I live. From the Knights of Columbus to the many monuments we have here, he represents more than the caricature that the left presents today.
As an American of Italian descent whose middle name is Rocco, I grew up hearing about the anti-Italian discrimination and hate that was present when my grandfather came to Hazleton, Pennsylvania in 1913. He often told the story about how his first grade teacher couldn't pronounce our family name (Buchicchio), so she shortened it to what it is today: Bognet. In my house, like others I know, celebrating Columbus meant honoring the Italian heritage of my family.
Columbus is a cultural touchstone to the many Italian-Americans who live in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania. This is a place that twice voted for President Obama, but supported President Trump in a big way in 2016. It was the votes of the people here who precipitated the fall of the Democrats’ “blue wall” on Election Night.
There are many theories about why President Trump was able to pull off his historic win in places that had not elected a Republican president in decades, but this current debate calls to mind one important reason: culture. President Obama tellingly revealed how the left really thinks about voters here in 2012 when he flippantly said Pennsylvanians – the majority of whom supported him in two presidential elections! – were “bitter” and clung to their guns and religion.
What the left, and particularly the progressive elites who run the Democratic Party, heading into the 2020 elections fail to understand is that it is precisely their attacks on and slow degradation of these values and traditions over the years that has left the people craving radical change from Washington-as-usual. Years ago, when Democrats like Bill Clinton negotiated away our jobs to foreign countries and boarded up our factories, for example, what did many people have left except for their culture?
There are real ways to address systemic inequalities in our system through economic and educational opportunities, but Democrats are repeating their past mistakes in stoking the flames of these wars on our culture. Not one person has ever been lifted out of poverty or been given a real chance at success in life by tearing down a statue. Unlike previous years, however, these traditions aren’t simply being taken away by slick politicians and legislation, but rather by violence and lawlessness aided and abetted by the supposedly “enlightened” left and their media accomplices. How can Joe Biden claim to be “Scranton Joe” when he caters to the woke fringes of his party in tearing down Northeastern Pennsylvania’s culture? This wholesale stampede to appease the progressive statue mob will only further alienate the voters they pushed away four years ago.
Jim Bognet is the proud grandson of an Italian immigrant coal miner and is a former Trump Administration Official. He is a Republican running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s Eighth Congressional District.