Of Monuments and Mayors: The Confederate Memorial Controversy in St. Louis

Brian Birdnow
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Posted: May 22, 2017 10:05 AM
Of Monuments and Mayors: The Confederate Memorial Controversy in St. Louis

In the news last week, if we took a break from the daily Trump melodrama now playing in Washington, we noticed the reignition of an older, but still potent cultural firestorm, namely the push to remove Confederate-themed monuments from public properties.  In New Orleans, last Wednesday, workers dismantled a monument to General P.G.T. Beauregard under cover of darkness, although supporters and opponents of the action came out to watch the spectacle anyway.  The fault lines separating the opposing sides in these matters have been thoroughly explored and require no further explanation here.  Suffice to say that this issue is heating up again, and not only in Deep South cities like New Orleans, Memphis, and Charleston.  It has now spread to the border cities, as well!

Last Wednesday, on the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a once great American daily newspaper, a headline screamed, “Confederate Memorial Must Go, Krewson Says”.  In this instance “Krewson” refers to Lyda Krewson, the recently inaugurated mayor of St. Louis, Missouri.  The “Confederate Memorial” is a massive granite column, 32-feet-tall, and weighing 40 tons, which residents proudly point out as the site of the 1904 World’s Fair, and the first Olympic Games held in the Western Hemisphere.  The statue was dedicated in 1914, and cost $23, 000, most of which was raised by the Ladies Confederate Monument Association.

Ms. Lyda Krewson, St. Louis’s first female mayor, and her supporters proudly congratulate themselves for “breaking the glass ceiling” and putting their lady in office, just as a former failed Democratic Presidential candidate hoped to accomplish.  The real glass ceiling, though, in St. Louis city politics is the barrier that has kept Republicans out of the mayor’s office since 1946.  Every St. Louis mayor for the last 71 years has been a Democrat.  There have been some good ones, some mediocrities, and a few terrible mayors, but every last one has been a Democrat.  Meanwhile, St. Louis has sunk from the nation’s seventh largest metropolitan area to the twentieth largest, and one-party government might be part of the problem.  In any event, Ms. Krewson, a self-declared proud liberal, decided to pick this fight as the first public battle of her fledgling administration. 

St. Louis has many pressing problems at this moment.  The city’s violent crime rate is staggering, and on the rise.  The Ferguson tragedy illustrated the area’s tense race relations.  Political corruption in the city and municipal governments has long been the norm, and we recently lost pro football, too!  Yet Mayor Krewson has chosen to ignore these real problems and play to her liberal base by leading the charge of those who insist on removing a monument from Forest Park.

Ms. Krewson has, predictably, found allies in the mainstream media.  In the aforementioned Post-Dispatch story, the author, a reporter named Kevin McDermott, couldn’t resist the urge to lob a few cream pies at those who oppose removal of Confederate statues.  He mentioned that supporters of removal object to the monuments because of their connection to slavery and white supremacy.  He went on to state, “Opponents of their removal, including white supremacists, alt-right activists, and some Republican politicians argue that removal movement amounts to a purge…of American history.” 

Here we see the mainstream media at work.  No slander, libel, or defamation is too wicked to be tied to conservatives and/or Republicans.  Mr. McDermott did not refer to those who support statue removal as politically correct liberal busybodies, or opportunistic Democratic politicians, like Mayor Lyda Krewson.  No, the Post-Dispatch will never question the motives of their favored pressure groups but they simply assume the worst of their opponents, and bash them accordingly.  Interesting coming from a newspaper that regularly laments the loss of “civility” in our public discourse.

The outcome of this controversy currently rests in limbo.  The city does not have the money to move the statue, and they have refused to sell or donate it to the local Civil War museum.  Certain voices of restraint in the matter have reasonably pointed out that a couple of hundred yards from the Confederate statue stands a likeness of General Franz Siegel, who took the regiments of St. Louis German-Americans into battle against the Southern forces, and that a statue of Frank Blair, the influential soldier-politician whose strong actions kept Missouri in the Union in 1861 sits a quarter of a mile away.  They have suggested placing explanatory markers at all of the statues, noting Missouri’s complex role as a border state slave state, and the city’s corresponding role as a traditionally southern metropolis, but one undergoing permanent change with the arrival of large numbers of Irish and German immigrants in the decades before the war.   This is well-intentioned, but unlikely to happen as long as there are cheap political points to be scored. 

So, what does the future hold?  In all likelihood, the statue will eventually come down.  Mayor Krewson and her allies will celebrate another faux victory.  We will then wait for the politically correct vandals to propose demolishing half of Mount Rushmore, leaving only the non-slaveowners, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt on the monument, although Father Abraham and TR were certainly not in line with modern thinking on racial matters.  Finally, we will wait for someone to propose tearing down the Washington monument named for the slaveowning first President of the USA in the city that bears his name.  He may have been first in the hearts of his countrymen, but that was a long time ago, before the veil of political correctness descended on this great nation.  The beat goes on!