Image: Gateway Arch
By Dallas Hansen
A couple of years ago, my wife and I arrived at Upper Crust Pizzeria in Beverly Hills, California, to watch the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It was a packed house, but it was immediately clear for whom the crowd was cheering.
With each HRC zinger came a round of whistling and cheers; and every Trump burn prompted a unanimous chorus of boos. As I sat silently and awkwardly rooting for the underdog, the irony of the well-dressed crowd in one of America’s wealthiest zip codes cheering on the tax-and-spend candidate wasn’t lost on me.
It was at that moment that I started wondering what it would be like to get out of Los Angeles—to flee somewhere it would be possible to own a home, garage our cars, have a yard for our dogs, yet still be surrounded by the culture and conveniences of city life. By November we were packed up and en route to a new beginning in my wife’s hometown of St. Louis.
I arrived solo in my car on election night, and from the comfort of my wife’s parents’ county home in suburban Wildwood, I watched the results arrive. As CNN called Florida, my proudly liberal mother-in-law retired to her bedroom and wept while my father-in-law stared stoically as I pulled a celebratory beer from the fridge with its prominently placed “History Made” magnet on the door.
Suddenly, Hillary’s face wasn’t looking so smug.
Missouri, sometimes a swing state, was officially a Red State. Trump had captured 57.1% of the vote, and permitless concealed carry—aka constitutional carry—had recently become law. Compared to California, taxes were lower across the board, and you could crack a beer on a sidewalk, in a public park, or even as a passenger in a moving vehicle, all perfectly legal in The Show-Me State.
But a 35-mile daily commute from a tract-housing subdivision wasn’t our idea of a good time, and so when we finally segued from my wife’s parents’ home into a 121-year-old townhouse in a traditional city neighborhood, I was in for an unexpected culture shock. Whereas LA was filled with mainstream liberals and comparatively moderate Democrats, I soon understood St. Louis was in fact the Midwestern epicenter for far-left radicals.
My first major clue arrived the summer we moved into our newly purchased property. Lying in bed with the windows open enjoying a nice evening breeze, my reveries were interrupted by the unmistakable sounds of nearby gunfire.
There was a brief mention of the incident in local media with few details—just that a man had been shot and wounded—but two days later I was walking my dog when, in an alley a block away from my home, I saw two men working on a Toyota Camry that had obvious bullet holes in its windshield.
I asked them what had happened. According to the driver, who wasn’t hit, a black sedan blocked his path and a rifleman, whom he didn’t recognize, opened fire from the rear window. By his account it was totally random, with no clear motive.
It should be noted that the passenger, who was hit twice in the shoulder, as well as the driver, were both white. By the driver’s account, the suspect was black. Furthermore, the police sergeant who arrived at the scene (a black cop) asked whether he knew what was special about the date; to which the driver responded he had no clue.
“It’s the Mike Brown anniversary,” he reportedly said. “There’s been shootings all over.”
The gist of it being that these two white guys may have been randomly targeted for simply driving while white. No one had any ironclad proof of this, but I thought my encounter with the victims and their testimonials sufficiently worthy of being conveyed to the Facebook Group of my neighborhood association, to which I was already a dues-paying member.
White virtue-signalers calling me racist. Others accusing me of spreading hearsay and hate.
“Don’t shoot the messenger guys!” I said, pun intended.
Too late. I had already caught a group ban. And next a lot of sideways looks at the neighborhood association meeting. Pardon me for trying to share information I thought might be relevant to my fellow neighbors.
Can you imagine if the opposite were true? If a couple of black guys in a car had been fired upon by apparently random white dudes in a possible hate crime? Front-page news.
That was my wake-up call, and ever since I’ve accepted that taking my dogs for a walk means strolling past at least a dozen Black Lives Matter signs, rainbow flags, and virtue-signaling placards loudly proclaiming “Hate Has No Home Here.” No hate—unless, of course, you’re seen wearing a MAGA hat. With nearly 80% of St. Louis City voters casting a ballot for Hillary, and fewer than 16% backing the God Emperor, if you carry any right-of-center sensibilities you might want to leave them in the closet.
Going out to eat almost feels like being a purple-haired feminist is a requirement for restaurant hires. Among men, there’s a pandemic of soy face. And for a city numbering only 300,000, there does seem to be a disproportionate number of active far-left groups: AntiFa, Socialist Alternative St. Louis, The People’s Revolutionary Defense Coalition, Redneck Revolt, Black Lives Matter, Socialist Rifle Association, Socialist Party of Missouri, Saint Louis Revolutionary Collective, Communist Party USA, Socialist Party of Greater St. Louis, Democratic Socialists of America, Socialist Alternative St. Louis, International Marxist Tendency, Red Path Collective, to name just a few.
They love to whine about gentrification and affordable housing, yet the civic government owns entire swaths of the city. The entire northern portion of the city has nearly nonexistent land value, and the city has lost over half a million population since 1950.
One emerging neighborhood, Cherokee Street, has seen a small business targeted—its windows broken by a self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist-Maoist group for having the temerity to display a pro-police US flag with a blue stripe running through it. “Pig supporters not welcome,” read the threatening, hand-written note. “Flag goes down or you go down.”
It’s hard out here. Just ask famed black Trump supporter, Henry Davis, who has nearly 88,000 followers on Facebook in addition to having reached the 5,000 Friend limit. I had the good fortune to be invited to his Walnut Park home (97% black neighborhood, crime rate 320% above national average) for a St. Louis traditional fish fry, and this father of a teenage boy told me he’s had his windows broken and threatening notes taped to his door because his neighbors had seen him on Fox News praising the president.
Our mayor? Back in the 1990s, she saw her own husband murdered outside their house during an attempted carjacking, but rather than devise a comprehensive solution to the out-of-control crime issues, upon taking office in 2017 her first order of business was removing a Confederate monument in Forest Park, and plowing over the adjacent roadway formerly known as Confederate Drive.
Despite all this nonsense, I’ve no plans to flee to the countryside. However much I might be irked by virtue-signaling soy boys and pink-hatted women’s marchers, my preferences are more town than country. If conservatives and libertarians abandon cities completely, the far left will be in full control of the cultural institutions, such as universities and major media organizations, that thrive in urban areas.
Left academics point to highway construction, redlining and blockbusting as being the prime movers behind the fabled White Flight that hollowed out rust belt cities throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, and there they have valid points. But as these cities start to make a comeback, the new residents are bringing with them overwhelmingly left-of-center sensibilities.
Believers in free-market ideology should be a bulwark against the development NIMBY-ism and top-heavy planning that liberals tend to bring to cities. Traditional architecture, closer-knit communities, closer amenities and shorter commutes are just a few of the enticements of urban living that transcend political alignment. As a self-identifying libertarian-leaning conservative with neo-traditional tendencies, I see good reasons to prefer city life to that of suburbia.
So if you have a yearning to embrace a pioneering spirit, come join me in the wilds of St. Louis. And take extra satisfaction knowing that nothing triggers a socialist like being displaced.