Encountering `Chris Kong' and Political Correctness

By Levins, Harry | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), January 3, 1994 | Go to article overview

Encountering `Chris Kong' and Political Correctness


Levins, Harry, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Some cities enjoy soaring signatures. The Eiffel Tower declares, "This is Paris," just as the Statue of Liberty speaks for New York and the Gateway Arch proclaims St. Louis.

Other cities reach to the sky but fall short; think of Indianapolis and its monstrosity of a War Memorial. But most cities lack any signature - and if the nay-sayers in Columbus, Ohio, have their way, that metropolis will remain among them.

As a token of friendship, a Russian sculptor wants to give America his 331-foot bronze statue of the Ohio city's namesake, Christopher Columbus. But squabbling among Ohioans has put this gift on hold.

Part of the problem is money. The statue itself would cost nothing, but the shipping and handling charges for 500 tons of bronze run to $25 million. Neither the city nor Ohio's state government feels that in these tight times, it has $25 million to spare.

Another argument against the statue is aesthetic. Some critics call the statue "Chris Kong" and say it would be a laughingstock looming over the city. Maybe they're right. Still, some startling designs (I'm thinking of the Civil Courts Building) grow on you, even if others (I'm thinking of the Serra Sculpture) don't. We'll never know about the Columbus statue unless it goes up.

It probably won't, because of the loudest argument of all: Christopher Columbus is politically incorrect.

Back in the fall of 1992, an editor assigned me to write a package of articles to mark the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovering the New World. My reading soon showed me that terms like "discovering" and "New World" give politically correct people fits of distemper. They say Columbus encountered a world of ancient civilizations that deserved to be left alone.

Their retroactive morality condemns Columbus as a murderous exploiter. …

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