Monday, November 9, 2009

It Was 20 Years Ago Today

A vision of peace.

When I was growing up, it seemed impossible to imagine that the Berlin Wall would ever come down.

But 20 years ago, in the dying days of the Soviet Union, communism was going through an upheaval. A gradual inching towards freedom occurred. And travel restrictions were eased.

In part, this was because a flow of refugees from the East was forcing their way into the West.

In East Germany, millions of people (nearly 10% of the population) took to the streets -- marching for freedom.

The East German government, with the blessings of the Soviets, announced new rules that would let East Germans travel to the West.

In Berlin, tens of thousands gathered at the Berlin Wall, laughing, singing, and drinking. Then they climbed the wall. East German authorities announced that the border would be opened in the morning, but the crowds kept coming. And eventually the border was opened, without fanfare, in the middle of the night.

Later, sensing the situation was getting out of hand, East German leader Egon Krenz ordered the border guards to reseal the border by any means necessary, including deadly force.

The East German soldiers, looking out at the crowd of revelers from the East and West, made some efforts to establish order, but chose not to use any force. Over the next few days, bulldozers broke apart sections of the Wall, creating four new border crossings. Less than a year later, East and West Germany were officially reunited and only a small section of the Wall remained upright.

What had once seemed impossible had happened, virtually overnight.

John Dear, writing in The Plough challenges us to imagine ways to make the world better (read his article here.)

25 (or even 21) years ago, the fall of the Berlin Wall seemed impossible -- or at best something that might happen in some far-away future when we were all dead. That was very clear. Until it happened. And suddenly everything seemed possible.

I can't think of a better way to celebrate that anniversary than to ask what a better world will look like (and then imagine ways to bring that better world closer).


Who Am Us Anyway? said...

Thanks so much Alex; I'm ashamed to say i would have completely missed this anniversary were it not for Clicks and Pops -- and it was a moment never to be forgotten.

Connie said...

What a fascinating video. I remembering watching the news, but I don't remember being as powerfully struck then as I am now. Old age bringing wisdom, perhaps. --Connie

Alex said...

Who, No problem. Hey does that mean this blog now counts as "community service? :)

Connie, I remember at the time feeling caught up in the exuberance, but only later realized how significant that event was.

Eight months later I was in Berlin, where I rented a hammer & chisel from an enterprising former East Berliner (who seemed to be adjusting to capitalism well) and chipped off my own chunks of a still-standing segment of the wall.