My dad and I had an interesting debate/conversation last Saturday. It had to do with the current upheaval in southern states about whether they should remove certain Civil War monuments that have become the focus of individuals fighting white supremacy groups.
This conversation came after we watched a History Channel special on Berga, a German concentration camp that kept hundreds of U.S. servicemen as POWs (prisoners of war) working with Jews forced to work in an underground ammunition plant.
Dad asked me if they should remove the Confederate bronzes raised to commemorate Civil War Confederate leaders. My answer was no. My answer was not because I agree with slavery or anything like it. Quite the opposite, my answer was no because blanking out a piece of history does not mean it didn’t occur. Quite the contrary, if the statues are kept up, they are a reminder to our country of a place we don’t want to ever go again and a reminder that we are all made equally in the eyes of God.
My dad was of the opinion to remove the statues so that they don’t remain as a constant reminder to those in the South that they lost the Civil War and maybe they can reclaim some of the old southern pride if they keep their heroes in place.
His thought continued that some in the South have turned bronze statues into gods they worship; taking them down would remove the irritation, like keeping salt from an open wound.
In the conversation, with the Berga concentration camp fresh in my mind, removing our Civil War bronzes and statues would be like removing Berga, Auschwitz or other reminders that there was religious persecution and extermination to the tune of six million Jewish people.
Reminders of the past, however horrible, need to be seen so that we as humans don’t tread on that path again. History has a tendency to repeat itself, especially if we don’t know it or remember it.
Glorification of the Confederate flag is like waving a red flag at a bull. The Confederate flag is a visual reminder of an age where slavery was allowed and people were possessions.
Taking down the flag is upsetting to people in the South because it still represents an age of freedom for them, at the expense of others. A flag is one thing and historic figures in a park are another – but that is my thinking, a white person looking at it from a historic perspective rather than one from personal mistreatment of long-lost relatives by a country making its way from its birth some 85 years earlier.
When I brought up Berga, and how we as the human species can’t forget atrocities such as those the Germans did to so many others, Dad reminded me that we were dealing with an internal struggle in the United States and not a world war. He continued that we are not the North or South; we are the United States of America.
I still go back to the premise that we can’t forget the bad parts of history so that we don’t repeat them in the future. I’m afraid that if we take down bronze statues, what is next? Will the Civil War be stricken from history books because it was a terrible experience for black people?
History is something that we learn from – it is not an anchor that we wear around our necks to keep us from growing, remembering or not treading on already formed paths. History is a tool we can use to guide our futures with a beacon of hope.
We, as adults, need to teach our children about atrocities of our past – that is the only way we don’t retrace those terrible steps in the future.
What do you think? Let me know.
Linn County News publisher
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