Imagine you’re a Jewish resident of Berlin, present day. It’s taken decades, in this hypothetical alternate Germany, for you to gain the right to vote and even use the same water fountains as regular Germans and eat at the same restaurants. Your people have had to fight tooth and nail for each of these rights and many others. Standing in your way? German conservatives who love your food, music and athleticism and fashion sense but only under the condition that you smile and and behave yourselves and not get too uppity.
Now Imagine getting arrested and going to court. Towering over you as you enter the courthouse is a giant statue of Adolph Hitler, the shadow from his outstretched arm chilling you to the core as you pass through it. I wonder what that would feel like?
Now imagine you go jogging in a public park every day, and every day you pass a statue of Himmler.
You remember when there was a tax increase to pay for all of these statues of people who bulldozed your grandparents into a mass grave. You bite your tongue because the backlash for speaking out is exhausting and frustrating.
Imagine being unloaded from an ambulance and being wheeled past the statue of Dr. Joseph Mengele that stands proudly in the hospital entryway, the smiling twin babies at his feet tugging playfully at his pant leg.
There’s a placard at the base of the statue that reads “Angel of Life.” It all makes sense, though, because the hospital is named after him.
Your kids go to school at Eichmann Elementary. They play little league baseball. The team is called the Zyklons, and parents in the crowd wave signs encouraging them to “GAS THE COMPETETION.”
Movies and TV primarily depict Jews as either criminals or comic relief. When they’re not depicted as such and given lead roles, Germans complain about how “social justice warriors” are ruining everything.
These things bother you and many others on a deep psychological level, but your concerns, when voiced, are met with anger.
“DURR WE HaLf 2 PRASERVE ALL TEH HIStoRy GuD aN BaD!”
You might say “that’s what history books and museums are for,” but of course you’d be addressing people who’ve never cracked a book they weren’t forced to read in school. And they certainly aren’t visiting any museums.
They don’t see what the big deal is. “Why don’t you Jews just get over it??? The past is the past! Move on!”
“Okay, how about we start by removing statues glorifying Nazis?”
“No! That’s history! You’re the racist for wanting to take them down! You’re racist against Aryans!”
See how silly all of that sounds? That’s you, though. That’s you on the wrong side of history, fighting to keep people from tearing down these statues that say “You can sing and dance and play basketball and tell jokes for our entertainment, but remember who’s in charge.”
In Germany, Nazi iconography is banned entirely. I’m not a fan of that at all, myself, but I don’t live there. If someone in America wants to slap rebel flag stickers on his truck or fly the flag outside of his home, or put it on an album cover, etc etc etc, that’s his prerogative. I would never suggest the right to free speech be taken away from anyone. I like the Dukes of Hazzard. It was what it was. It’s not being produced now, and I can enjoy it in context. Keep it out of the courthouses, though. Keep it out of the schools unless it’s coming from a history book.
Keep the history, but let go of the mythology surrounding it. Never suppress or alter history from an academic standpoint, but instead alter its course. Stop telling kids these people were living action figures and present them with the raw facts. Let them ask questions and come to their own conclusions about what all of it means. Talk about it. Let’s share the American Dream with everyone and make new and better history for kids to study 100 years from now. Come on. We can do better than this.