Steve Kraske has written two articles for the Kansas City Star proposing that the Nichols fountain on the Country Club Plaza be renamed. While it is impossible to ever understand all the logic used by some in make such proposals, it is my belief that one can easily see the fallacy of his arguments.
There have been some examples of cities in the South attempting to become politically correct by removing monuments honoring veterans of the War Between the States. I guess that Kraske feels that Kansas City is being left out and that we need to jump on the bandwagon.
When asked, most Americans will not have the correct answer to why a war divided our country in the first place. Most people believe that it was only about slavery, and regardless of what you may have been taught in junior high, that is simply not the truth.
While the immoral and unsavory practice of slavery was ended as one of the results of the war, there were numerous other issues, such as states’ rights and the economic imbalance between North and South. Historians today are still debating the exact causes and effects of that dark time in our nation’s past.
Those statues were not erected to glamorize or condone slavery and oppression. Rather, they were created for the purpose of showing respect to brave men of valor who believed enough in a cause to risk their very lives. I have to wonder how many men and women in our country today are willing to risk all for a noble calling.
J.C. Nichols died before I was born. He was a real estate developer whose foresight and wisdom helped shape the future of the Kansas City metropolitan area. His goal was not to be a social engineer, but to create subdivisions and homes for a profit. Yes, he was in the business of making a profit and profit is not a dirty word.
During those years in which Armour Hills, Brookside, Crestwood, Fairway, Mission Hills and Prairie Village were being developed, Mr. Nichols had to be keenly aware of his market, or the projects would not have been successful. He, and those who assisted in the drafting of the restrictive covenants, knew the market.
Although it has only been a couple of generations or so since the development of those areas, home buyers today are not the same. We would quite quickly classify our predecessors in these developments as bigoted, narrow-minded and racist. They considered themselves to be normal.
Those people, with those views that are socially unacceptable today, would not be interested in purchasing homes in subdivisions that did contain those restrictions. Without the restrictions, the number of buyers would have decreased, and the area may not have seen the growth that eventually accompanied these developments.
Contrary to what Mr. Kraske would have us believe, Mr. Nichols was not personally responsible for depriving generations of African-Americans and children of certain religious faiths of a quality education. Nor did he personally prevent their parents from accumulating the personal wealth that comes from owing homes in prosperous neighborhoods.
In his latest article, it is reported that of several hundred responses, about 75 percent were supportive. My unofficial polling only amounts to talking about the two articles with somewhat less than several hundred, but with 100 percent agreeing that changing the name of the fountain accomplishes nothing.
It’s perfectly acceptable to feel bad for those who have suffered wrongdoing or have had bad things happen in their lives. I’m all for doing something to help others in distress. But I don’t have time for empty symbolism. If you want to help someone, then do it, but don’t waste time criticizing the values of a man who helped build a community, and who is not around to defend himself.
David Coffelt is a Harrisonville area resident and his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.