Gateway Arch is Pink with Embarrassment

Gateway Arch in St Louis at the Jefferson National Expansion MemorialWhat does the Gateway Arch in St. Louis represent to you? For me, it has always represented the "Gateway to the West", Lewis and Clark, Thomas Jefferson, Manifest Destiny, and Westward Expansion; all of which, are actually the Arch's intended representation. Here is how the Park Service describes its role:

"Thomas Jefferson's vision of the spread of freedom and democracy from 'sea to shining sea' inspired Eero Saarinen's masterpiece of modern design. The 630 foot stainless steel Gateway Arch reflects St. Louis' role as the gateway to the West. The park is a memorial to Jefferson's role in opening the West through the Louisiana Purchase, to the pioneers who helped shape the history of the American West, and to Dred Scott who sued for his freedom from slavery in the Old Courthouse."

Is there anything in that statement that inspires you to think about breast cancer? No? Well then, someone will need to rewrite the purpose of the Gateway Arch, because for the last two years it has been used as a beacon for Breast Cancer Awareness month. The National Park Service has been forced to shine big pink lights on the Arch to raise awareness for breast cancer. I say "forced" because the NPS didn't want to do this. Two years ago, the NPS rejected the idea, so Missouri Senator Jim Talent created legislation to make a permanent annual exception for his cause. It happens to be a big cause for Senator Talent who's own mother died of breast cancer.

I can hardly think of a better cause than curing cancer, but that is not what the Arch should be used for. It dilutes the meaning of the Arch, and in turn, dilutes the meaning of our parks. If they can shine a big pink light, it opens the door ever so slightly to other uses. What about shining a light on the Arch for a favorite basketball team if they make the playoffs? Or using it to hang a banner with a political message like "Mission Accomplished"? Or to drape it in advertising for a local restaurant chain? And if they can do that to the Arch why couldn't they do that to other National Park Icons? What could they use the Liberty Bell for? What message could be delivered on the side of Devils Tower? How could Half Dome be used for the cause? Can we hang something from the torch of Lady Liberty? The National Park icons do not exist to promote anything other than the ideals for which we chose to protect them! As I see it, the Gateway Arch is pink because it is embarrassed that the history for which it stands has been compromised by a Senator with a cause.


Interesting point. I enjoyed this nice thinking piece.