Long life

New Orleans is being reborn (without its Confederate statues)

The Southern city is recovering from its recent hardships – but it’s not all plain sailing

7 November 2015

9:00 AM

7 November 2015

9:00 AM

The last time I was in New Orleans was during the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico when the city was still also reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Now it seems to have recovered from these traumas. The restaurants are packed and the picturesque French Quarter, the old heart of the city, throbs to the sound of jazz music in streets blazing with neon lights and crowded with excited fun-seekers.

But things are hardly perfect. The city has one of the highest crime rates in America — well over 100 murders already this year — and even in the Garden District, the city’s most expensive area, full of gracious Victorian villas, the pavements are in such disrepair that they are perilous to walk on. The hostess with whom I have been staying has her arm in a sling after breaking her elbow in a fall. The city council is strapped for cash and cannot afford to re-lay the paving stones that have been forced up from the ground at jagged angles by the swelling roots of the evergreen oak trees.

But there is one large expense on which the mayor has set his heart, and this is the removal of all the monuments to the Southern heroes of the American Civil War — the president of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis, and two of his most famous military commanders, P.G.T. Beauregard and Robert E. Lee — and renaming the streets named after them.


Lee, of course, was a brilliant general of great personal integrity, whose commitment to reconciliation with the North after the Confederacy’s 1865 defeat in that bloody conflict earned him respect and admiration even among its former enemies. There are many monuments to him throughout the United States, but the grandest by far is the one in New Orleans, a large bronze statue on top of a 60-foot white marble column — barely a third of the height of Nelson’s Column in London but almost as iconic, and central to the city’s annual Mardi Gras celebrations.

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But Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced in the summer, as part of a ‘racial reconciliation’ initiative following the 17 June massacre of nine people at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in a racist hate crime, that it was an inappropriate symbol of New Orleans today. ‘Symbols really do matter,’ he said. ‘Symbols should reflect really who we are as a people. We have never been a culture, in essence, that revered war rather than peace, division rather than unity.’

Ken Livingstone implied something similar when in 2000, as mayor of London, he called for the removal from Trafalgar Square of the statues of General Sir Charles Napier and Major-General Sir Henry Havelock, though he drew the line at toppling Nelson from his perch. He, too, seemed to believe that statues of military heroes of the British empire were outdated symbols, though his main complaint about Napier and Havelock was that he didn’t know who they were and that he thought — probably rightly — that hardly anyone else did. ‘The people on the plinths in the main square of our capital city should be identifiable to the generality of the population,’ he said.

There’s no such problem with Robert E. Lee. Everyone knows who he is, the military champion of the defeated Southern states that had seceded from the Union to preserve their slave-owning economy. He is hardly a hero for African Americans. But many people, including some blacks, see the mayor’s initiative as an ill-advised attempt to wipe out memories of the most momentous and bloody period in the nation’s domestic history.

There are posters in the Garden District for a group calling itself ‘Save Our Circle’ (this ‘circle’ being the Lee Circle in which the Lee monument stands) which is campaigning against the mayor’s initiative, calling it ‘a divisive move that will and has already divided the entire community’.

‘But most importantly,’ it goes on, ‘the mayor’s focus should be on more pressing issues affecting the city. On the same day he made his intentions clear at the New Orleans City Council meeting, the city reached its 100th murder. Shouldn’t the “monumental” expense to relocate, rename, or remove any of these monuments or street names, or any symbol deemed offensive, be spent more effectively?’ I think so, especially on the pavements.

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  • JohnJ

    “the president of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis, and two of his most famous military commanders, P.G.T. Beauregard and Robert E. Lee — and renaming the streets named after them.”
    Isn’t that fabulous? They are joining the many Arab and African countries that have to rename their streets after ever regime change. And it makes such a difference to the world! In one country I worked all the expats named the streets themselves as it was too difficult to use the constantly changing regime’s names. So there was Chocolate Street, Furniture Street, and Devil Street ( the later sold TV and satellite dishes)

    • Gilbert White

      Right on, have you got a religion of peace street near you?

      • JohnJ

        No, we haven’t caught up with this trend yet. Still have the old names from the EMPIRE ya – Wolseley Road anyone? –
        But I did see the Madonna clip from the Superbowl that ended with a huge sign lit up that said ‘World Peace” – and suddenly all the world’s the combatants stopped fighting, the dogs embraced the cats and the lion lay down with the lamb. See, that’s all it takes.

  • SackTheJuggler

    I’m not sure why New Orleans needs Confederate statues anyway. The place was barely in the Confederacy for more than a year.

  • I’m sure the mayor will proclaim them “Martin Luther King Jr. Str.” and “Barack Hussein Obama Boulevard.”
    If a Southerner can’t celebrate other Southerners in the South, where can he celebrate them?

    • Ralph

      Just wondering how all the statues of George III we left in the colonies are fairing.

      • Just talking to a fellow who lives on King George Street, actually. As for statues- I’m not sure if there were any in the colonies (certainly the Royal Coat of Arms were destroyed by the secessionists).
        The point is that the culture has taken a decidedly hostile stance against the identity of the area.

        • Ralph

          Just the standard ill informed desire to politicise history to get votes which should be laughed at but gets traction.

  • Leftism is a societal cancer

    Southerners need to stand up to this tyrannical attack on their heritage. Long live the South!

    • Shorne

      ‘their heritage’ losing a war you mean.

      • Leftism is a societal cancer

        No, the South has an identifiable culture and heritage that the left and the mainstream conseratives want to eliminate or severely diminish.

        • Shorne

          Yes a culture and heritage that had its origins in slavery.

          • Leftism is a societal cancer

            No, not entirely or even mostly.

            Welfare and feminism have been worse for blacks than “racism” ever was.

          • Shorne

            Your views are so ridiculous that I’m beginning to wonder if you aren’t some sort of plant to give reactionaries a bad name, not that they really need any help.

          • Leftism is a societal cancer

            Sorry that you can’t take a dose of reality.

            I could point out to you the complete degeneration of the black race in America since the 1960s with numerous statistics but is think you’d rather keep your head in the sand and it would be a waste of time.

          • Shorne

            Well that rather proves my point.

          • vieuxceps2

            No,not a heritage of slavery but of settlers in a new world seeking to make their way with whatever means were to hand and lacking your lefty modern knowledge and supersensitivity.

          • Shorne

            As the North became more industrialised the South remained agrarian and this is why they clung to the institution of slavery. Slavery also gave poor Whites somebody to look down on and thus feel they were not the bottom of the heap.
            When Union troops entered Richmond Va one of the places they discovered was an area known as ‘the Devil’s half acre’. It was a huge slave market operated by a man called Robert Lumpkin. It contained a room designated the ‘Whipping Room’. If deploring this makes me ‘super sensitive’ I gladly admit it.

          • Sanctimony

            Ironic that the pre-Civil WarDeep South produced Washington, Jefferson, Madison & Munroe … all of whom flourished on the back of slavery… and they are all revered to this day….

          • Sanctimony

            Hey, old buddy…. you would have flourished during the slave trade….

          • vieuxceps2

            Yes, probably.Many like me did. Good job, eh? Or where would
            we be?

          • Shorne

            Slavery was banned throughout the British Empire in 1833, it didn’t collapse as a result and 4 years later the Victorian Age began.

  • Roger Hudson

    Identity politics is pathetic, we ( humanity) have great problems and ought to get on with solving then. Arguing about the past is futile.

  • global city

    Neo-colonialism, by the forces of the Left, who have marked white people and heritage as ‘the out group’.

    we are all the enemy now, even the stupid liberals themselves.

  • MikeF

    The shootings in Carolina were not a ‘racist hate crime’ – that is emotive sectarian left-liberal verbiage. They were racially motivated murders – that is the correct English language way to describe what happened.

    • Richard

      Emotive language is the stock-in-trade of the Left. It is really all they have to offer.

    • Ralph

      All murders, save perhaps mercy killings, are hate crimes and the focus should be on the victims not the excuse the loser used to justify his actions.

      • MikeF

        But the term ‘hate crime’ is partisan and sectarian. It seeks to makes some crimes worse than others because of the presumed motivation of the perpetrator – and even more specifically the extent to which that supposed motivation offends ‘left-liberal’ sensibilities – rather than the effect on the victim.

    • Sanctimony

      Pedant !

      • vieuxceps2

        Idiot !

        • Sanctimony

          I see the claqueurs are still on the go…. must be years now since I put my head above the parapet… wonder what happened to mahatmacoatmabag ?

      • MikeF

        No – ‘hate crime’ is an ideological concept that promotes the self-estimation of its proponents above the real suffering of the victims of unprovoked violence. It also depersonalises the crime and in this case obscures the fact that real individual people lost their lives.

    • vieuxceps2

      Yes, Mike, we must be aware of the way our language is used to further lefty influences. Political Correctness is a mighty and insidious weapon which is advancing surreptitiously all the time. We should all fight against it

  • Kentc

    The Confederate statues are still there. They have not been removed yet and they may not be removed. Several polls have been taken that show that a majority of the people that live in New Orleans want the statues to remain.

  • Sanctimony

    I wonder what Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, four of the first five presidents, would have have made of it all… all Virginians and part of the Confederacy. The latter three were also among the best-educated and well-read presidents ever.

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