We Should Have Followed Germany’s Example for Our Confederate Monuments

by kristenc –

On Saturday, a white nationalist-Nazi-KKK rally in Charlottesville, Virginia turned into a brawl between protesters and counter-protesters, and resulted in a brutal murder.

Three days later, the country is still grappling with the effects of the protest, but it’s important to remember how it all began: with a ‘Unite the Right’ rally meant to defend a confederate monument that was slated for removal.

This is something we as a nation need to most past, and we even have a clear model we should be following: Germany’s.

After World War II, Germany had to grapple with something ugly in its history. The country chose to deal with the aftermath of the Nazi regime by banning all Nazi iconography, destroying Nazi statues and allowing remaining Nazi architecture to fall into ruins, with little more than a plaque warning visitors to avoid the dangerous, crumbling remains.

In Germany, expressing Nazi ideology is illegal. Shouting ‘sieg heil’, raising your arm in the Nazi salute and declaring yourself a Nazi can get you arrested. Just last week an American was assaulted by locals, then cited by police, for making the Nazi salute in a bar. Germany and its people take the mission to stamp out its own ugly racism seriously.

Meanwhile, in the United States, decades after the confederacy lost, we began putting up monuments – not memorials, not historical lessons, not warning messages, but grand monuments – to the confederate soldiers. Stately bronze statues of Robert E. Lee riding a horse or raising his arms, the Confederate flag, other symbols of this failed attempt at a racist revolution began going up.

There was a huge surge of confederate statues going up in the 50s which was directly connected to the climax of the civil rights movement and the KKK. Statues went up in states that didn’t exist or were part of the union during the civil war. It’s very apparent that some – perhaps most – of these statues were designed out of a racist fondness for the confederacy, not as a historical lesson of any kind.

There is no reason for many of those statues to exist, and there’s no reason for themto be displayed in public. History is important, but so too is how you portray it – the confederacy was not a proud moment in American history, and historical statues should reflect the atrocities the confederacy advocated for, not the gloriousness of its leaders.

In Germany, you will never find a statue of Hitler in the public. You might find some in museums, but the government is not portraying Hitler as a worthwhile or proud part of its history, for good reason. You will find monuments to the atrocities of the Nazi regime, which provide thorough historical education, but not monuments to the soldiers or the regime.

The United States should be following suit, but instead we’re embroiled in debates on the local and national levels over how appropriate it is to allow worshipful statues of confederate soldiers to remain in the public eye.

We need to take the statues down. The demand for their removal is growing – on Monday, protesters took down a confederate statue memorializing confederate soldiers in Durham, North Carolina. It was a stunning display of direct action. It probably won’t be the last. If local governments don’t want mob rule to take down the statues, they should probably remove the statues themselves.

It’s time for the statues to come down. Americans will not worship or tolerate our racist past, and we won’t tolerate the racist fraction today that want those statues to stay.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos