Commentaries

During Morning Edition and All Things Considered, or on Cityscape

Commentaries are opinion pieces provided by a wide variety of individuals in the St. Louis region. They are not necessarily the opinion of St. Louis Public Radio, but are intended to reflect diverse viewpoints on issues affecting our region. To submit a commentary or proposal, email commentaries@stlpublicradio.org.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

--Upton Sinclair

The quote  was cited in Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” to explain opposition from the energy industry to the theory of human-induced global warming. People who profit from fossil fuels are understandably reluctant to embrace arguments for the abolition of their use. Fair enough. A recent Associated Press article, however, indicates that Sinclair’s observation may be a blade that cuts both ways.

Detail from woodcut of 1878 parade
Missouri History Museum Photographs and Prints Collections

The bomb strikes in Syria this week put the spotlight on the Khorasan group, a little-known offshoot of al-Qaida. But once again, as skeptics on the left and right so often suspect, the media don’t seem to be telling the whole story.

The media didn't tell you, for example, that in St. Louis, we spell Khorassan with a double S – or that we're already quite familiar with the sometimes-controversial history of a local group with Khorassan connections.

Commentary: We Are Michael Brown's Mom

Sep 21, 2014

I am Michael Brown’s Mom.

I am white, I live in St. Louis. But I could live anywhere and be any color. The story in my community is a story in all communities. Only the events might be different.

Images of peaceful and violent demonstrations, the visuals of the last few weeks, swirl in my head. In the midst of it, my friend Nekisha shares a song, “If I Could,” by Regina Belle.

Protests and chants came into the St. Louis County Council chambers Tuesday night.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Six weeks after Michael Brown’s death, certain key demands and questions are reverberating from the Big Bang of protest that erupted in Ferguson. Priorities seem to be emerging even though the protesters themselves – and the official and unofficial groups discussing what should happen -- have conflicting ideas and no central organization.

Great River Road, fall 2012
Mary Delach Leonard | file photo | St. Louis Beacon

St. Louis is an urban island floating in a sea of green. We may not think about it often, but our urban island is surrounded by corn and bean fields, cattle pastures, vineyards, oak forests and, of course, rivers and their valleys. This countryside teems with wild turkey, bluebirds, butterflies, geese and ducks, fox, deer and bald eagles. As all island-dwellers know, sometimes you just have to get off the island to be rejuvenated. Fortunately for us, that’s easy to do.

Commentary: 9/11, Ferguson And 'The Normal Heart'

Sep 15, 2014
The exterior shell of the World Trade Center south tower
FEMA | Wikipedia

Some moments in life never lose their power. There are two moments, two short hours, that I will always, ALWAYS, remember. And both came together on the  evening of Sept. 11, 2014.

One memory remains as clear as it can be: the hour watching live TV in my kitchen here in St. Louis as two planes flew into the World Trade Center in the where city I was born and raised in. It was Sept. 11, 2001.

Screen shot from YouTube

Representative democracies are rarely models of gentility. Their elected officials, motivated by self-interest and a certain belief system, often see their views as right and proper and those of their opponents as wrong-headed and dangerous. The U.S. system, based on separation of powers and checks and balances at all levels, has necessitated a certain need for compromise and the importance of being able to govern. The result has usually been country above party -- although that did not eliminate some hyperbolic rhetoric or using the system for personal gain.

Jason Rosenbaum | file Photo | St. Louis Public Radio

Anger boiled up again when the Ferguson City Council met this week. It was the first meeting since Michael Brown’s death sparked upheaval here and since upheaval here created the possibility of a national reckoning with issues that reach far beyond Ferguson.

Our region will continue to play a pivotal role in determining whether the nation seizes this moment to tackle its Gordian knot of problems related to race, fairness, opportunity and mutual respect.

aug 23
File photo | Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

Once again we in this region are faced with racism and alleged racist actions to be determined by the courts in the month ahead. Sadly this is not new.

Commentary: Work And Labor Are Common Themes In Art

Sep 5, 2014

I went to see the musical "Billy Elliot" at The MUNY in Forest Park. The story takes place in the coal fields of Northern England, where mining had been the major employer for hundreds of years.

Sad, depressed Willie Loman, the protagonist in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman," and his struggle and failure came to mind and the fact that work and labor are common themes in art was very much apparent.

Ian Sane | Flickr

The bad news is that chronic wasting disease, or CWD, has reached epidemic proportions among deer in some parts of the United States.

The good news is that the Missouri Department of Conservation has so far been successful in containing the spread of CWD after finding cases of the disease at a captive deer breeding operation in 2010.

(via Flickr/davidsonscott15)

If the St. Louis County grand jury fails to indict Officer Darren Wilson, we may have the Missouri legislature to blame.

The problem is an old statute that most people agree is unconstitutional: As it is written, the Missouri statute says that an officer is justified in his use of deadly force if he believes that it is necessary to effect the arrest of a person and the officer also believes that the person “has attempted to commit or has committed a felony.”

Marchers demand change on Aug. 18 in Ferguson.
Willis Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

A week ago at the NAACP rally in north county, my good friend and a leading voice on stopping the violence in our community, James Clark, told everyone that “while we are good at protest we need to be good at the pivot to solutions.”

His words are both insightful and instructive. The challenges before us are both short term and long term.

Capt. Ron Johnson
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

Having trouble understanding what’s going on in Ferguson? That may be because #Ferguson is a new kind of protest. In #Ferguson, leadership is self-designated. Divisions — by race, age and motivation — are complicated. And Twitter gives everyone an instant international audience.

In the last couple weeks, I’ve heard #Ferguson explained in simple terms. They’re not entirely wrong. But they’re not completely right. Here are six common half-truths and what they reveal about what’s really going on:

A protester on Aug. 16 in Ferguson
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

Call for patience and peace - U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

Jamala Rogers
Provided by Jamala Rogers

Lately, I can’t help but reflect on a 1968 best-seller book that was widely read and discussed but brought about little change. The book was the infamous Kerner Report.

The book was the published report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967. The seven month study looked at the underlying causes of city uprisings from 1964-1967.

David Broome | UPI

Distance, whether measured in space or time, is often a friend to understanding. It clarifies where proximity distorts, allows us to grasp things in their entirety.

Mike Jones, addressing the County Council earlier this year
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio / St. Louis Public Radio

The following was written for the St. Louis American, which posted it on Aug. 14.

I got a call Monday from the Political EYE to discuss the murder of Michael Brown. I know that's a harsh judgmental description of this tragic event without benefit of all the facts and any official findings, but as a product of the sixties I know you don't always need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.

Ferguson Farmers Market

What will we learn from a week that will weigh heavy on the hearts of St. Louisans for years to come? These tumultuous days have changed the way we see each other and the way the world sees us.

The fury that unfolded after a police officer killed Michael Brown in Ferguson laid bare some of our area's underlying fault lines. It raised questions we usually leave buried. And it presented to the world an image of our region that those of us who live here didn’t always recognize and might rather not see.

Dean Benjamin Akande and Michelle Tucker
Provided by Webster University

As an aspiring English teacher during her undergraduate studies more than 20 years ago, Michelle Tucker’s ambition was to become a key leader within corporate America. Michelle’s aspirations led her to Webster University to pursue her graduate degree, which she completed in 2000. Michelle’s encounters with nurturing, farsighted professors at Webster University played a key role in refining her talents and maximizing her strengths in strategic planning, people management and employee development.

The last streetlight in Pruitt-Igoe.
pruittigoenow.org

Going into the inner city and taking a hike through the abandoned Pruitt-Igoe public housing site could be regarded as a lark, but once the hike is finished, a visitor realizes it is considerably more than that. Pruitt-Igoe is forbidden fruit, but going in is all the more delicious because one is not supposed to be there. Plus, from the outside it looks dangerous, and that quality makes adventure even more appealing. Beyond those easily transgressed wires stretched across old, worn down streets, there is a place of rare beauty and of serenity.

at the polls
Rachel Heidenry | File photo | St. Louis Beacon

Whether or not you like the results of Tuesday’s election, you might find some bright spots in what it revealed about voters.

At least in St. Louis County, voters showed up in higher than expected numbers. Across the state, voters proved resistant to the influence of money. And voters even found some common ground across the rural-urban divide that often immobilizes the state.

Of course, turnout for the primary was far from stellar – about 25 percent overall. But in St. Louis County nearly 30 percent showed up – substantially more than the 20 percent predicted.

Commentary: What Does A Degree In Graphic Arts Mean?

Aug 1, 2014

I was talking to a recent college graduate and asked what she had majored in. When she told me that her degree was in graphic arts, I wasn't really certain what the term meant or what she was going to do with such a degree.

(courtesy of Uber)

"I caution people all the time that when you're dealing with public policy not to be completely driven by logic."—Taxi commission chairman Louis Hamilton

That burst of candor, reported by St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann, helped to illuminate what was really going on this week as the commission grappled with questions that will determine whether Uber and Lyft operate here.

Bobby Fischer competes in the Piatigorsky Cup matches in 1966.
Provided by the World Chess Hall of Fame

The name Bobby Fischer is synonymous with outstanding intellect, intimidating competitiveness and intense focus.  His is a uniquely American success story that nearly everyone has heard - even if they can’t tell a rook from a bishop.

So what makes Fischer so captivating?

Robert Orth as Howie Albert and Aubrey Allicock as Young Emile Griffith
Ken Howard | Opera Theatre of St. Louis

I recently joined a group of arts leaders at the Nine Network to discuss how organizations in Grand Center could collaborate more effectively. As part of the meeting, they asked us to name some of the ways collaborations have created value in the community. This question took me back to my first day of business school at Washington University, when we talked about the concept of value: how the benefits an organization produces are greater than the costs of the organization. It is a classic case of one plus one equals three.

Michel Martin
Doby Photography / NPR

With changes underway in programming on St. Louis Public Radio and in NPR’s national news operation, you may be wondering who decides what and why. Even if you’re an NPR junkie, you may not know how it all works.

I certainly didn’t before making the transition from avid listener to St. Louis Public Radio staff member seven months ago. Here are three important organizational facts I’ve learned. They may seem arcane, but over time they shape the content you hear.

Commentary: Has The Definition Of Sculpture Changed?

Jul 11, 2014

The standard definition of sculpture in almost any dictionary says that sculpture is the art of modeling, welding or otherwise producing figurative or abstract works of art in three dimensions, as in relief, intaglio or in the round.

Flickr/mrsdkrebs

We celebrate America’s birth on July 4. But 238 years after the Declaration of Independence, our democracy, like any living thing, still needs care and feeding. Part of that responsibility falls to journalists, and this Editor's Weekly often focuses on our role. But there’s more to the news ecosystem than professional journalists.

The CityArchRiver Foundation

The St. Louis Gateway Arch is this city’s signature monument. It defines the city’s place in American history and for nearly half a century has stood as one of the nation’s architectural points of pride and engineering ingenuity.

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