What if we treated Confederate symbols the way we treated the defeated Nazis?

Good contrast that points out the thoughtlessness of defending Confederate symbols and statues:

Earlier this month, amid America’s confrontation with its racist legacy – which has seen monuments to Jefferson Davis toppled, the Mississippi state flag lowered, Gone With the Wind pulled from HBO’s streaming service, and music groups such as Lady Antebellum and the Dixie Chicks rebranding in an effort to distance themselves from memory of the Confederacy – I came across a tweet that put these headline-grabbing goings-on, and the backlash to them, in perspective: “Trying to imagine a version of WW2 where the Nazis just get pushed into Bavaria and surrender, but keep the swastika on the state flag, slap it on their cars and say stuff like ‘The Third Reich is my heritage.’”

The tweet, by the popular history YouTuber Three Arrows, was tagged with “lol” – as if to drive home just how absurd it would be to see the grandkids of former Nazis puttering around Munich in VWs adorned with swastika bumper stickers, like something out of a pulpy alt-history novel. It’s an idea so sinister as to seem cartoonish, and laughable. But something similar goes on in America all of the time.

In Germany, you won’t hear debates about Nazi statues. As the moral philosopher Susan Neiman, author of Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil, notes, there’s a good reason for that: there aren’t any Nazi statues. The program of denazification began almost immediately after the second world war, established as one of “Four Ds” (along with demilitarization, decentralization and democratization) outlined in the Potsdam agreement of 1945. An Allied order in 1946 declared illegal “any monument, memorial, poster, statue, edifice, street or highway name marker, emblem, tablet, or insignia which tends to preserve and keep alive the German military tradition, to revive militarism or to commemorate the Nazi Party”.

HBO Responds to Twitter Protest Over ‘Confederate’ Series | Time.com

The commentary by the producers suggests that some of the concerns may have been excessive. Alternate realities, if done with sensitivity, can help further discussion:

HBO issued a statement Sunday night in response to an organized Twitter protest against the network’s planned alternate-history slavery drama from Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and writer-producers Nichelle Tramble Spellman (Justified) and Malcolm Spellman (Empire).

“We have great respect for the dialogue and concern being expressed around Confederate,” the network said in a statement. “We have faith that Nichelle, Dan, David, and Malcolm will approach the subject with care and sensitivity. The project is currently in its infancy so we hope that people will reserve judgment until there is something to see.”

As hit series Game of Thrones aired on Sunday evening, the hashtag #NoConfederate trended globally on Twitter. “We believe the time to speak up is now before the show has been written or cast. Before @hbo invests too much money into #Confederate,” activist April Reign, one of a group of women who started the campaign, wrote on Twitter last week. “This Sunday at 9 p.m. ET, during @GameOfThrones, we ask you to stand with us. We want to send a message to @hbo using hashtag #NoConfederate.” (Reign launched #OscarsSoWhite in 2015 after the Academy Awards nominated an all-white slate of acting nominees.)

“We know we have the power to make change,” she added in another tweet. “Let’s show @hbo how many people are against #Confederate. Please join us Sunday w/ #NoConfederate.”

In an email to CNN, Reign added, “We would like HBO to cancel #Confederate and instead uplift more marginalized voices with a different series.”

HBO announced Confederate earlier this month. According to a press release from the network, the show “chronicles the events leading to the Third American Civil War. The series takes place in an alternate timeline, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution. The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone — freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.”

In the wake of the news, social media erupted in protest over the premise — a response the producers discussed in an interview with Vulture. “I do understand their concern,” Nichelle Tramble Spellman said. “I wish their concern had been reserved to the night of the premiere, on HBO, on a Sunday night, when they watched and then they made a decision after they watched an hour of television as to whether or not we succeeded in what we set out to do. The concern is real. But I think that the four of us are very thoughtful, very serious, and not flip about what we are getting into in any way. What I’ve done in the past, what Malcolm has done in the past, what the D.B.s have done in the past, proves that. So I would have loved an opportunity for the conversation to start once the show was on the air.”

Added Malcolm Spellman, “What people have to understand is, and what we are obligated to repeat in every interview is: We’ve got black aunties. We’ve got black nephews, uncles. Black parents and black grandparents. We deal with them every single day. We deal with the struggle every single day. And people don’t have to get on board with what we’re doing based on a press release. But when they’re writing about us, and commenting about us, they should be mindful of the fact that there are no sell-outs involved in this show. Me and Nichelle are not props being used to protect someone else. We are people who feel a need to address issues the same way they do, and they should at least humanize the other end of those tweets and articles.”

Last week, HBO president Casey Bloys took the blame for the way Confederate had been announced, saying it could have been handled with more grace.

“File this under hindsight is 20/20,” Bloys told reporters Wednesday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. “If I could do it over again, HBO’s mistake — not the producers’ — was the idea that we would be able to announce an idea that is so sensitive that requires such care and thought on the part of the producers in a press release was misguided on our part. [We] had the benefit of sitting with these four producers, we heard why they wanted to do the show, what they were excited about, and why it was important to them, so we had that context, but I completely understand that somebody reading the press release would not have that at all. If I had to do it over again, I would’ve rolled it out with the producers on the record so people understood where they were coming from.”

Bloys added the show will not be “Gone with the Wind 2017” and that all the producers understand the “high degree of difficulty with getting this right.”

“But the thing that excites them that excited us is if you can get it right, there’s a real opportunity to advance the race discussion in America,” he added. “Again, what Malcolm said in one of his interviews was, ‘If you can draw a line between what we’re seeing in the country today with voter suppression, mass incarceration, lack of access to public education or healthcare, and draw a direct line between that and our past and our shared history, that’s an important line to draw and a conversation worth having.’ So it is very difficult, and they acknowledge there’s a high degree of difficulty, but they all feel — and we support them — that it’s a risk worth taking.”

Source: HBO Responds to Twitter Protest Over ‘Confederate’ Series | Time.com

New Orleans mayor delivered the reality check America needs: Gary Mason

Mason on Mitch Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans, and his political courage in arguing for and  taking down Confederate statues:

While far from a household name in the United States, I remember thinking at the time Mr. Landrieu was someone whose political horizon could one day stretch all the way to Washington – although he poo-pooed having any grander ambitions than the job he had.

Recently, however, the New Orleans’s mayor may have unwittingly (or wittingly) launched the journey that could one day take him to the White House. In a stunningly eloquent speech defending the city’s decision to remove four statues honouring Confederate generals and soldiers, Mr. Landrieu reminded Americans why words continue to matter.

It was the kind of soaring oratory that became the foundation of Barack Obama’s historic rise to power. And against the backdrop of the current administration, and the monosyllabic shallowness of President Donald Trump, it stood out even more.

In one memorable line, Mr. Landrieu undermined the notion that statues such as the one glorifying the racist Civil War general Robert E. Lee were necessary to recognize the country’s history. Said Mr. Landrieu: “There are no slave-ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks. …”

He went on: “These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring enslavement and the terror that it actually stood for.”

Taking these statues down was not an easy thing to do in a southern city such as New Orleans, where racism remains entrenched. Many residents thought the mayor needed to be worrying more about murder and less about monuments. But he felt it was time the South confronted a deeply painful issue. He thought about what a black mother would tell a young daughter who asked about the metal sculptures and what these men had done to be exalted in this manner.

“Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her?” he said in his speech. “Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story?”

It was brilliant.

In the last month, Mr. Landrieu was mentioned in The New York Times as a possible contender for the Democratic presidential nomination for 2020 – along with the names of many others. But even if this speech doesn’t take him any further than the mayor’s office, it was important.

It was important because it was an exemplary example of a politician taking on a tough issue, knowing the solution will create upset and anguish. But also, elegantly explaining the rationale behind his decision.

Source: New Orleans mayor delivered the reality check America needs – The Globe and Mail