Opinion: What to do with the statue? Just ask Germany

Posted on Sep 25 2017 - 8:00am by Daniel Payne

As I was traveling through Germany waiting for my study abroad program to start, I couldn’t help but notice all the monuments, memorials and museums dedicated to the victims of the Nazi regime.

I only stayed in Berlin for a few days, but it was hard to walk far without finding a monument, memorial, museum or other remembrance of those affected by the Holocaust.

The symbols of hate — the swastikas and statues of military leaders — have been destroyed or moved to museums. What remains is a history lesson, a place for solemn remembrance, a decision to never forget. If we forget history, we may repeat it.

Imagine how strange I would have felt if I were welcomed to Germany and saw a statue memorializing the Nazi soldiers. It’s not that the statue itself could do anything harmful, but it would perpetuate the negative symbolism it was first created to represent. The statues and swastikas were erected to remind the people who was in charge and what that institution stood for.

That is why I find it strange that when I walk on my home campus, I’m welcomed by a memorial for soldiers who fought and died for another regime of terror. This regime, the Confederacy, also used forced labor to fund its efforts and killed many based on genetic traits.

The Germans I spoke with seemed to have no problem with the symbols of their country’s detestable past being removed; they weren’t proud of that part of their nation’s history.

Why, then, are there some Southerners, some in this very university, who insist the Confederate soldier is the best representation of their heritage?

These monuments represent a movement to undermine the American values of equality and freedom by enslaving and destroying a people systematically. Let us not forget that the soldier that stands on our campus today committed treason against our nation.

This symbol does not represent the University of Mississippi today.

These are not our values.

Some may argue that taking down the statue would be a removal of history. The opposite has been true in Germany, though. As past symbols of hate and evil came down, museums came up in their place. The former SS Headquarters was transformed into a museum and memorial after being destroyed. Only a few broken pillars remain, symbolizing the total destruction of Nazi ideals in Germany.

Why are we afraid of taking down the symbol of hateful ideals in our own communities, even decades later?

When I told friends from other countries that my home university still had a Confederate statue standing, even with a contextualization plaque, some were shocked, but most were appalled.

I would like to see the money from my tuition go to moving the statue to a museum instead of having it repaired from the recent accident.

Perhaps the money we would save from repair could go into a new statue in its place: a statue that represents our university today, not the hate of the 1800s. Even a toppled, broken Confederate soldier would better represent our university, just as the toppled pillars of the old SS Headquarters better represent the Germany of today than the old structure did.

As communities across the nation proclaim they don’t want Confederate ideals symbolized in their public spaces, now is the time for the statue to come down in our own public space.

Our university should be an example to the nation of how a community with a troubled past can find a way forward, into new symbols of acceptance and unity.

Daniel Payne is a sophomore integrated marketing communications major from Collierville, Tennessee.