By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – Now that Mitch Landrieu has removed four Confederate era monuments in New Orleans, supposedly we can expect two things as stated by the mayor himself:
- Crime will drop and the city will unify.
- New Orleans population will swell to pre-Katrina numbers.
Over the past few weeks Landrieu has used the city’s firefighters and police force to work, masked and in the dark of night, to remove these four landmarks which are now in an unsecured maintenance trash yard in NOLA.
Some reflections on this entire ordeal:
The citizens of New Orleans never got to vote on this. A city council vote of 6-1 sealed the fate of the monuments.
Various local media polls in New Orleans showed a majority supported leaving the monuments in place. The monument opponents, however, were more vocal.
Mitch Landrieu credits former NOLA resident Wynton Marsalis with the impetus to remove the monuments. Marsalis, who lives in New York, penned an OpEd for the Times-Picayune in December 2015 in which he stated:
“When one surveys the accomplishments of our local heroes across time from Iberville and Bienville, to Andrew Jackson, from Mahalia Jackson, to Anne Rice and Fats Domino, from Wendell Pierce, to John Besh and Jonathan Batiste, what did Robert E. Lee do to merit his distinguished position? He fought for the enslavement of a people against our national army fighting for their freedom; killed more Americans than any opposing general in history; made no attempt to defend or protect this city; and even more absurdly, he never even set foot in Louisiana.”
The statement about Lee never setting foot in New Orleans is patently false as Robert E. Lee was stationed at Jackson Barracks and was in the city numerous times over several years.
Mitch Landrieu has displayed an astounding lack of transparency on the removal process. Landrieu promised the courts that qualified contractors would be used in removal. This was a lie. Landrieu used city firefighters to remove the monuments and live feeds of the removal of each monument was evidence enough of their ineptness and inexperience with removal of priceless works of public art as the statues twirled perilously at the end of straps rigged around them supported by bubble wrap and while removal cranes burned rubber trying to get closer to their targets and leaked hydraulic fluid everywhere.
In his victory speech last week, Landrieu claimed that the monuments caused a great exodus from the city:
“I will say this for the people that are interested in the costs. The cultural, economic, and spiritual loss to the city for having those statues up that have run people out of the city. The great migration that sent some of our best and brightest to place across the country that we don’t have the benefit of has been incredible.” said Landrieu.
It’s as if it never crossed his mind that high crime, pot-hole ridden streets, corrupt government, failing schools, no jobs, and high taxes might be a contributing factor to the problems in New Orleans.
In truth, Hurricane Katrina caused the population exodus and the city’s population has been on a steady climb back to pre-Katrina numbers ever since.
As we reflect over the travesty of the Landrieu administration, one has to consider his motives in all of this. There have been rumors of a job offer from Al Sharpton for Landrieu, there have been rumors of the mayor having national political ambitions, and there have been rumors of motivations in Landrieu’s personal life for removal of these monuments.
Water under the bridge.
What is left in the wake of all this is a once beautiful city now more racially divided than ever. A city that came together in unity after Hurricane Katrina that is now ripped and torn at the seams. A city with a crime rate that makes it the most dangerous city in the country.
As I have documented this story on this blog through the past months, it has been with the purpose to acknowledge that this can happen in any city in any state in the country. As a people we must find a way to live together and to reconcile ourselves with our differing opinions and perspectives. States all across the South are struggling with this Civil War monument issue – some choosing to protect their monuments and some not. Some choose to add other monuments to appease the opponents (they call it ”balancing the story” but it is appeasement). Some choose to add “interpretive plaques” that retell the story in a more politically correct light.
The ignorance of our society, and the willingness to too many to avoid the study of history, is where this emanates from. Had Mitch Landrieu done one iota of research, for example, he would have known that Robert E. Lee had been in New Orleans. That was never the point.
Landrieu’s point was to “correct history,” as he told TIME magazine. Now that’s a monumental ego for you.
As for the crime issue, the city has 76 murders this year so far, well above the rate last year. And on Saturday night, for example, with all four monuments now gone, the shootings and violence continue. Two men were shot in downtown New Orleans Saturday night and another stabbed with a screwdriver.
Thank goodness the city is unified now.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.