I just made a visit back to the country of my birth. I had wondered what I’d find there, and quickly realized I’d had no idea about the changes. America has a new president and a new mood in the land. The violent protests at Charlottesville, Virginia occurred during my visit. I tried to follow the arguments for keeping the statue. Heritage. History. Cultural good.
I watched the debacle from the other side of the country. I’m no Southerner; what do I know? And then I met an old college buddy for dinner. He suggested a great Mexican place. It’s in Creswell, a little city just 8 miles outside of Eugene, Oregon. We parked in front of the restaurant, and as I stepped out a big pickup truck raced down the center of the street. Confederate flags flew defiantly from either window. The flags were huge, and meant to be noticed.
“Welcome to my country,” my buddy said. I’d like to say I promptly forgot about the sight, but I haven’t. Let’s be very clear here. The Confederate flag has nothing to do with the history of the Northwest. In the rest of the world, the Confederate flag is a symbol of slavery and white supremacists. The noise of those big flapping flags was a loud slap across the face, a F-You to normal values and behaviors. Donald Trump and others argue that removing flags and statues = removing history.
I climbed on a plane a week later and returned to Germany. Now, if any country lives past, present and future history simultaneously, it is Germany. No busts of Hitler remain. Germans don’t want or need them. Instead, stumbling stones called Stolpersteine mark the last homes of victims murdered in the Holocaust.  Outdoor installations like Berlin’s East Side Gallery and the Topography of Terror, or Leipzig’s “Runde Ecke” Memorial Museum and the Stasi Bunker Museum are just a few of the national monuments and exhibits that grapple with the tasks of explaining why Nazi Germany came into being, and dictatorships and fascism in general.
America’s Declaration of Independence states, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….  As I ponder this truth, I exhale. I held my breath in distress during my visit. I’m told, and I read, that this is who we Americans were all along. Truculent. Armed and angry. Shouting. Unwilling to try to understand how people with views different from our own think, or feel. From this side of the Atlantic, history appears to be repeating itself. We’ve experienced this kind of thinking and acting before. It did not end well.
I hope that the opposite version wins out.
NOTES:  Go to my earlier posts Stolpersteine 1: Tsunami Cowboy’s Stumbling Stones and Stolpersteine 2: A Stumbling Stone for Luisa Lepman to read more about Stolpersteine.  http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/
© Jadi Campbell 2017.
Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.
13 thoughts on “Flags”
Make no mistake — celebrating symbols of the Confederacy is the equivalent of celebrating the symbols of Nazism. The artifacts of evil belong in history books and museums, not in places of public pride. From what I read, Germans (for the most part) understand this better than Americans — especially south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Germany had to engage in serious self-examination after two world wars…. It required an unflinching look at their history. But that process has made the country a great place to live.
Dark times from something we assumed would not happen again. How could it? But Chaos will not be stilled.
Chaos is defined by Vocabulary.com as follows: The word chaos derives from a Greek word meaning “chasm” or “void,” which makes sense, given that chaos also refers to the formless state of matter before the cosmos was created. In math and science, chaos describes a system that will develop in wildly different ways with only tiny changes to the initial conditions. “Controlled chaos” is a phrase often used casually to describe something that looks out of control but which functions according to unseen rules or organization.
Implied is the opportunity for a positive outcome as well.
Thank you for expanding on that. I love learning new things!
My pleasure Chris
There are many of us who can’t figure out why this is going on. We thought we were past it. We worked hard to get past it only to see it rear it’s head again. As another commenter said, most of these monuments started showing up during the Jim Crow era not as a tribute to heroes but as an “in your face.” Most countries do not allow statues of traitors to be erected and however you look at it, that’s what they were.
Perhaps things go in cycles. I’m not sure how else to understand it.
Well said Jadi
Living in a place like Germany gives one a different perspective
Great post, Jadi. The proponents of keeping the statues seem to forget (if they ever knew in the first place) that the statues are hardly “historic”; they were erected to support Jim Crow laws and later, were erected in response to the rise of the civil rights movement.
Yes. Thanks for reminding us of that fact.