Many of us remember watching during 1990 and 1991 the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the events leading up to it. Previously all the individual republics, including Russia itself, had seceded from the union. It happened pretty quickly.
Stenciled in our minds are the videos from television of former Communist-ruled people tearing down the statues of leaders of this Communist regime. Can’t you see it now in your mind?
Who would have thought that these public demonstrations might eventually serve as a model for action in the United States?
For the recent riot in Charlottesville has led many in this nation to address a situation still lingering in the United States: the Civil War, and its aftermath.
At one time, the symbol of that war was the Confederate battle flag, that star-and-bars that continues to divide a few in our country from the majority. A few years back, Georgia’s official flag was remade without the Confederate symbol, something that many remember as one element that cost Roy Barnes not to be re-elected as governor. Little did we realize the wide resentment that this flag caused, and still causes.
Now this same underlying problem has asserted itself about statues throughout this country as monuments to that war. The big question: what to do with them?
Let us turn to the country of Hungary to consider one alternative to allow these statues to remain. Hungary conceived the idea of parking their Communist statues all together in its “Memento Park.” This opened in 1993, and now houses 40 former Communist statues. They charge minimal admission to visit the park, about 20 minutes by bus from downtown Budapest. The Hungarians recognize it as a tourist attraction, an “artistic action ground” and educational center.
One phrase stands out: “The Memento Park is not about Communism, but about the fall of Communism.”
What’s going to happen when the forthcoming Georgia General Assembly meets and possibly considers what to do with Georgia’s Confederate statues? One solution might be to move any Confederate statue that a community calls offensive to ... Stone Mountain Park.
The park has plenty of room to situate statues throughout its 3,200 acres. They might be located all around the grounds of the park, much like there are remembrance artistic work throughout the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.
Chickamauga Military Park was the first of its kind, created in 1890 to preserve and commemorate these battlefields, and consists of more than 9,000 acres. It is the largest national military park. There are 705 commemorative features including monuments, markers and tablets. Veterans began marking the battlefields in 1894 and the last commemorative feature was added in 1976. Note that Chickamauga commemorates a battlefield, and not a cause.
Stone Mountain Park could commemorate this as a key historical era in our nation, and be a reasonable location for Confederate statues. It could become an even more popular tourist attraction. These statues are often beautiful works of art, and deserve to be kept intact, if nothing else, for their art alone.
And Hungary has shown us the way.
Aug. 28 was an important day for Georgia, as it dedicated a statue to Dr. Martin Luther King on the Capitol grounds. It made us proud.
May the Legislature keep the statue of Dr. King on the Capitol grounds. He is too large a figure of our state to see him relegated to another area. His legacy needs to be visible in the open in downtown Atlanta for all Georgians to easily contemplate at the state Capitol.