Commentary

No need for replica ship to be a political football in Maine

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In an attempt to rewrite history, the sailing of a replica model of Christopher Columbus’ ship from Bucksport to Bangor was canceled Friday.

Named the Nao Santa Maria, the replica ship would have sailed to Bangor and remained there from July 15 to July 17, departing Maine on the 18th. Tours on the ship were being sold until those, too, were canceled on Friday.

As of Sunday, though, those tours have resumed on the Penobscot River, but the ship will instead leave Maine on Tuesday morning. 

The Penobscot Marine Heritage Association invited the ship to the state as a way to celebrate its bicentennial. The Nao Santa Maria would have traveled on a four-port loop across the coast of Maine, bringing its onboard floating museum with it.

However, upon receiving complaints from the Penobscot Nation, it canceled the remainder of the ship’s planned trip throughout the state. The celebratory events will still happen in each town, though without the ship’s presence.

Members of the Penobscot Nation protested the arrival of the replica ship, while many others showed up as the ship arrived, excited to tour it.

The effort to cancel Columbus is nothing new to Maine, however those who oppose the ship’s presence in Maine could use these events as an educational opportunity rather than cancelling them outright. 

If you oppose something, go to the event and make your voice heard. Cancelling ship tours does nothing productive. 

The sailing of a ship for one week of the year in Maine will cause no harm or damage to our communities, and there is no practical reasoning for opposition towards it. The arguments are solely symbolic. Wokeness for the sake of wokeness. 

The ship’s arrival was simply supposed to be a fun and special way to commemorate Maine’s statehood.

The Nao Santa Maria travels to different ports across the world, while educating communities about one of Christopher Columbus’ ships that sailed the Atlantic over 500 years ago.

While aboard, guests can tour all five of the ship’s decks while reading placards about each room and the overall history of the Santa Maria, imagining themselves as a Spanish sailor in the 15th Century.

The ship provides an opportunity for those interested to live through history. If I was told I could visit one of Columbus’ ships as a kid, I would have jumped at the chance.

It’s sad that today’s kids in Maine won’t get the opportunity because of a debate over the symbolic meaning of a ship that has traveled to many ports around the world with little issue.

Though Columbus’ arrival to America was not without its flaws, the ship is still an integral part of the nation’s history, and to ignore its existence entirely would be a mistake. Using a modern lens to view work events that occurred hundreds of years ago rarely produces fruitful results. 

The ship’s purpose is not to celebrate colonialism. Its presence in Maine was for one reason: to celebrate the bicentennial of the Pine Tree State.

The Nao Santa Maria is one piece of that celebration which also educates those interested in one small chapter of our nation’s history, and it really need not be politicized.

What was supposed to be both a fun and educational opportunity for families across Maine morphed into a political football and, now, as a result, won’t be able to be enjoyed.

Photo credit: Botteville, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

About Nick Linder

Nicholas Linder, of Cincinnati, is a communications Intern for Maine Policy Institute. He is going into his second year of studying finance and public policy analysis at The Ohio State University. On campus, he is involved with Students Consulting for Nonprofit Organizations and Business for Good.

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