Don’t look now but if your city is named for a legendary white man, there may be a petition circulating to have the name changed. There are two examples in the news that point to what may be the next step in appeasing the racial equality protesters.
With statues coming down all over the country, it is probably to be expected. The aggrieved feel entitled to erase history, whether it is in the halls of federal buildings or in a city park. It doesn’t matter if the erased are Confederate-era figures or our nation’s Founding Fathers. Let’s take Columbus, Ohio first. City officials have agreed to take down the statue commemorating its name – Christopher Columbus. That is not a unique decision, statues of Columbus are coming down in many cities because of the history of cruelty he brought upon Indigenous people. Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announced the action with a hyperbolic flourish when he said, “For many people in our community, the statue represents patriarchy, oppression, and divisiveness. That does not represent our great city, and we will no longer live in the shadow of our ugly past.”
There is a twist in that story, though. The decision to remove the statue in Columbus has opened the door to a call for renaming the city. The demand is now in the form of a petition drawn up by a 32-year-old man named Tyler Woodbridge. He says removing the statue of Christopher Columbus isn’t enough. It’s never enough with the social justice warriors. He says even though Columbus is his favorite city, he has always been “a bit ashamed of the name”. So, he started an online petition which, as I write this on Monday morning, has 27,842 signatures. The goal stated is 35,000 signatures. I will note now that Woodbridge lived in Columbus for seven years and no longer lives there. He now lives in Tennessee. And, because this is 2020, guess which person he thinks the city should honor with the name change? Celebrity chef and restauranteur Guy Fieri. How does the name Flavortown sound to you? Fieri was born in Columbus. Flavortown is a catchphrase used by Fieri.
Woodbridge described Fieri as a very “charitable man,” pointing to the fact that the famous restauranteur has helped raise more than $20 million for restaurant workers during the pandemic and that he’s officiated more than 100 LGBTQ weddings.
“That kind of optimism and charitable work embodies more of what Columbus, Ohio, is about rather than the tarnished legacy of Christopher Columbus,” Woodbridge said.
But the fact that Flavortown came from Fieri is a bonus and not the main reason why he’s pushing for the name, Woodbridge said. Describing the city as a “melting pot” of different cultures and nationalities, Woodbridge said the name would honor the city’s “proud heritage as a culinary crossroads and one of the nation’s largest test markets for the food industry,” according to the petition.
But wait, there’s more. The petition has gathered enough signatures to catch the attention of Budweiser, which offered to give out free Bud Light Seltzer to all the city’s residents if the name is officially changed to Flavortown.
Bud Light Seltzer for all of Flavortown if this happens https://t.co/hUMViimR3n
— Bud Light (@budlight) June 18, 2020
Look, I’ve got nothing against Guy Fieri. I’ve seen some of his shows on the Food Network and he’s an entertaining guy. It just strikes me as odd that a superfan is trying to change the name of a city to honor him. It also makes me shake my head that Budweiser jumped onboard, even if it is to promote one of its beverages.
The second example of a city facing a demand for a name change is St. Louis, Missouri. A quick history of St. Louis shows that the city is named for King Louis IX of France. He gave a land grant to Pierre Laclede Liguest. Liguest and his 13-year-old scout, Auguste Chouteau, selected the current site of St. Louis as a fur trading post. They settled on the name Saint Louis because he was the most famous Frenchman of all time. King Louis IX was beloved by his countrymen, along the lines of George Washington in America or Abraham Lincoln. Louis IX became the only king of France to ever be canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church. So, that’s how St. Louis got its name.
The city’s statue of King Louis IX must go, the aggrieved say, but not for the reason you might think.
Activists say King Louis IX doesn’t fall in line with modern values and that he was specifically problematic when it comes to his views on Jewish and Muslim religions.
“To many people of Jewish heritage, he is known as someone who persecuted the Jewish people of France, confiscated and burned the Talmud, and 665 years before Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany he required Jewish people to wear an identification badge in public,” architectural historian Michael Allen with Washington University said.
Activists want the city’s name changed and the statue gone because King Louis IX was a loser or something.
Apotheosis of Saint Louis is its official name – sitting high on Art Hill and held up as the pinnacle of a medieval Christian monarch. At least to some.
“You can think of King Louis IX as the Chicago Cubs European kings. The man won nothing,” said activist Umar Lee. “We’ve got a loser on a horse up here with a sword of hate.”
Lee, along with restaurateur Ben Poremba, said add in King Louis’ role in the Crusades and he should be disqualified from serving as a symbol of the city.
They’ve started a petition to have him taken down.
“We need a statue to commemorate someone who’s heroic, who shares our modern values,” said Lee.
Confluence’ or ‘Scott’ for Dred Scott are two suggestions for the name change Lee and Poremba have been given by supporters.
I keep thinking of a description of 1992 that Queen Elizabeth used in her annual address that year. She called it an “annus horribilis” – a horrible year. That’s 2020 in a nutshell.