People are always asking me what I’m going to do as mayor to help Native Americans, the LGBTQ community, Blacks, and the under privileged.
As we celebrate Columbus Day, remembering our history helps shine a light on the struggles of every group of Americans.
We live in an era where the faults and flaws of anyone of importance are exploited, their legacy is tarnished and their achievements undermined. We do this to living celebrities and dead heroes alike. If we disagree with one thing someone says or one position a company takes, we disown them, we boycott them, we ex-communicate them—family and friends not excluded.
Christopher Columbus is no exception.
He was an imperfect man. He was brutal in many ways and wrong about many of his predictions throughout his life as an explorer. Knowing the full history of Columbus’s discoveries is important and should be taught, but “cancelling” our heroes and erasing the good parts of our history is an injustice that has proven only to divide people.
As an eleventh generation New Mexican, my family survived on merit. Every achievement was worked for, every job deserved, every promotion earned. It didn’t matter that we were Hispanic. We are a majority minority state, and in a country that has enshrined civil liberty into its laws, being a minority is neither a burden nor a blessing.
We used to celebrate our heritage for the values it instilled in us. Until recently, people were proud of who they were because of the good things their people had accomplished.
Columbus offers a useful lesson.
He was not a scholar. He was mostly self-taught but mastered nautical navigation and taught himself three languages. He is credited not only with discovering the “New World” but connecting the global economy with the one thing that erases all cultural divisions: commerce. And he won a place in our history books not on race or religion but on merit. He did what no man before him was willing to do, and he deserves our respect.
People should not uphold any man as a savior. There is one God, and you are not Him. But without the men and women who came before us, we would have no examples of what hard work, faith, and persistence can achieve.
As mayor, I will run this city like someone who loves it. Because I do. I will elevate the best talent to the highest positions, not based on race or gender or privilege or oppression, but based on merit. I will not hire women because we need to meet a quota. I will not hire Blacks or fellow Hispanics because they need better representation in the police force. No one who has put in the work to acquire the skills and master their trade should every take a handout. I didn’t. My father didn’t. My grandfather didn’t. My aunts and uncles and cousins and friends were proud of the things they accomplished in their lives specifically BECAUSE they were not given to them.
They were earned. That is our heritage.
And yet every one of them, myself included, are flawed. We all make mistakes, we have held opinions or said insensitive things. Every man save Jesus has marked himself with the imperfections of his humanity.
“Indigenous people” are no different.
“…the indigenous cultures Columbus encountered were as assorted as those of any other peoples in history” the National Review wrote in 2019. “While it might be true that some such cultures fit the nomadic, tranquil image pushed by the revisionists, not even close to all of them did. Which leads to an inevitable follow-up to those who would eliminate Columbus Day in favor of ‘Indigenous People’s Day’: Which ‘indigenous people’ do you have in mind? Is it the Kalinago people, who ate roasted human flesh, with a particular affinity for the remains of babies and fetuses? Is it the Aztecs, who killed an estimated 84,000 people in four days in their consecration of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan?”
We should no more vilify the ancient history of the indigenous than we should cancel the achievements of Columbus, because we are all flawed men.
What makes the individual great is not their degree of intersectionality or how victimized they were, but what they achieved in the short time you have on earth. The individual is no different than the culture as a whole: what matters is what positive contributions you make to your community, to society, to the world.
If you remember your history, Columbus was denied the initial funding for his voyages. He was mocked and ridiculed for inaccurate calculations about the time and distance it would take to reach his destination. But he didn’t give up.
“To hell with them”, was his response. He persisted.
Imagine a world where he hadn’t.
Imagine a world where he didn’t have to fight for his reputation and prove himself to the people who waited for him back home.
Imagine a world without flawed men and women who thought outside the box, who not only challenged the status quo with what were considered “radical" ideas at the time, but who were actually willing to put in the work to see them through.
Columbus was not a theoretician. He was not a journalist writing opinions from the safety of his home office. He was the captain of every crew he put to sea. He was a man of faith and a man of action. And that’s why he was given a national holiday. We honor his name, his legacy, and his achievements because he embodies the spirit that allows flawed men to achieve greatness.
As we celebrate Columbus Day, do not cast out all of the good because of some of the bad.
Respect the heritage that brought us this far, and keep that spirit in mind as you go to work tomorrow. Be thankful for all that you’ve been given, embody the strength and audacity of the men and women on whose shoulders we built our civilization, and be both humbled and empowered to achieve your own dreams, not because of what you’re owed out what you think you deserve, but because of what you’re capable of contributing.
Happy Columbus Day, from the Fight for 505 campaign.