The lessons of history?

Famous for a grand castle that currently serves as the seat of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state parliament, Schwerin is a town in northern Germany of some 90,000 people. In the mid-1800s, many residents moved to the United States, including Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Today Milwaukee and Schwerin are sister cities.

At the end of World War II, Schwerin was taken by U.S. troops and then turned over to the British who handed it off to the Soviets after occupation zones were designated. The city became part of the so-called German Democratic Republic (GDR). Democracy acquired true meaning with the reunification of Germany in 1990.

Evidently many Schweriners still cling to their memories of life under communism. How else to explain opposition to removing a statue of Lenin, on display since 1985, even after reunification? City Hall has also opposed removal. Here’s Mayor Angelika Gramkow:

"You see him and ask: Why is there a Lenin statue still here? What was it he actually stood for? This is the kind of debate that a public work of art makes possible. We won't change the way people think just by getting rid of a monument … I'm a child of the GDR and a lot of who I am comes from that. I also learned that an undemocratic society is not good. But that legacy is something all sides can learn to deal with without revising history."”

In that case, Mayor Gramkow and Schweriners who agree with her sentiments better not pay a visit to Seattle, Washington, at least not the city’s Freemont section. Why? Because its Lenin statue – situated outside falafel and gelato shops – has been known to be the subject (victim?) of various artistic projects that the Germans would not have found amusing.

For example, a glowing red star and Christmas lights have been added to it for Christmas. For the 2004 Solstice Parade, the statue was made to look like John Lennon. During Gay Pride Week, the statue is dressed in drag. It has also been painted as a clown and the Seattle Hash House Harriers have clothed it in a custom-fitted red dress for their annual Red Dress Run. This reminds me that I need to schedule a trip to Seattle to take some pictures. Now, where's that camera?

Famous for a grand castle that currently serves as the seat of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state parliament, Schwerin is a town in northern Germany of some 90,000 people. In the mid-1800s, many residents moved to the United States, including Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Today Milwaukee and Schwerin are sister cities.

At the end of World War II, Schwerin was taken by U.S. troops and then turned over to the British who handed it off to the Soviets after occupation zones were designated. The city became part of the so-called German Democratic Republic (GDR). Democracy acquired true meaning with the reunification of Germany in 1990.

Evidently many Schweriners still cling to their memories of life under communism. How else to explain opposition to removing a statue of Lenin, on display since 1985, even after reunification? City Hall has also opposed removal. Here’s Mayor Angelika Gramkow:

"You see him and ask: Why is there a Lenin statue still here? What was it he actually stood for? This is the kind of debate that a public work of art makes possible. We won't change the way people think just by getting rid of a monument … I'm a child of the GDR and a lot of who I am comes from that. I also learned that an undemocratic society is not good. But that legacy is something all sides can learn to deal with without revising history."”

In that case, Mayor Gramkow and Schweriners who agree with her sentiments better not pay a visit to Seattle, Washington, at least not the city’s Freemont section. Why? Because its Lenin statue – situated outside falafel and gelato shops – has been known to be the subject (victim?) of various artistic projects that the Germans would not have found amusing.

For example, a glowing red star and Christmas lights have been added to it for Christmas. For the 2004 Solstice Parade, the statue was made to look like John Lennon. During Gay Pride Week, the statue is dressed in drag. It has also been painted as a clown and the Seattle Hash House Harriers have clothed it in a custom-fitted red dress for their annual Red Dress Run. This reminds me that I need to schedule a trip to Seattle to take some pictures. Now, where's that camera?

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