|A postcard image from back in the day when both Balbo and Columbus could be regarded as heroic. Image provided by Chuckman's Photos.|
THE EVENT WAS even so significant that 7th Street in the South Loop was renamed, and remains known as, Balbo Drive.
It was no secret at the time that Italy’s government was the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, although no one thought enough of the symbolism of such a gift back then to think of refusing it. That would have been rude.
The days when Italy was officially part of the Axis powers of whom the United States were opposed to during the Second World War were still seven years in the future.
So it’s only now that activist-types in other parts of the nation are getting worked up over all those damned statues of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and other leaders of the traitorous movement for a Confederacy that our local people are treating the Balbo monument as being our local equivalent of an offensive tribute.
THEY’RE PUTTING ON enough pressure that City Council officials are scheduled to consider renaming Balbo Drive, and also taking down the column – which admittedly never tried to hide the message its gift was trying to present.
The base upon which it is displayed has an Italian language message that says, in part when translated into English: “Fascist Italy, by command of Benito Mussolini presents to Chicago exaltation symbol memorial of the Atlantic Squadron led by Balbo that with Roman daring flew across the ocean in the 11th year of the Fascist era.”
|The offending column|
It’s probably a wonder that such a blunt message wasn’t taken down years ago. It probably would have been a priority if it had been something Japanese.
Yet I can’t help but think that the column itself, which originally was erected on the beach of Ostia that was a Rome port, has a legitimate historic value. Probably something that would fit in perfectly as an exhibit in the Field Museum.
ALONG WITH ALL the other worldly artifacts that are on public display. I would hope that nobody is seriously thinking of reducing the 13-foot-tall column of breccia into rubble. That would just be petty.
As for the base with the Fascist message, that is not of an ancient origin. That could go. Although I’m sure that thought will offend those of Italian ethnic origins who want to insist that the current display is merely a cultural tribute – and nothing more.
Because I’m also sure those same people are prepared to take great offense to the latest pronouncement from Ameya Pawar, the 47th Ward alderman who wants to be elected as Illinois governor. Pawar says that if elected, he’ll use his powers to eliminate Columbus Day as an official state government holiday.
Not that he’s expecting state workers to work an extra day, or for schoolchildren to have to go to class. He wants to replace a holiday for the Spanish-paid explorer with one honoring the indigenous peoples who already lived in the Americas at the time of Columbus’ arrival.
WHICH WOULD PUT Illinois in the same class as Vermont, or cities such as Denver and Phoenix. For what it’s worth, the same City Council that now wants to erase Gen. Balbo passed an indigenous peoples’ resolution for Chicago, but that was a one-year thing. Efforts to make such a holiday an annual event in the Second City have stalled.
|PAWAR: Getting votes by doing away w/ Columbus|
I don’t know that I get as worked up about Columbus and whether or not he was a slave trader as some people do. Although I’m not about to plant altruistic motives to Columbus’ life as some people are determined to do.
Personally, I find the irony in the notion that the potentially first Indian-American to be chosen as governor would be the one to dump Columbus Day, since Columbus’ so-called discovery was an attempt at finding new trade routes to India.
Only to get distracted by arriving in what is now the Dominican Republic, and later Puerto Rico. One could sarcastically argue that at least Balbo managed to reach his intended destination.
EDITOR'S NOTE: So what do we do with the very prime location in the middle of Grant Park where Balbo Drive and Columbus Drive intersect?