I was fifteen when the Berlin Wall fell. I remember watching the newscasts. At least I think I remember watching; maybe I’m remembering watching them in school after the event. But I’m pretty sure I watched it on the evening news. Everybody watched the evening news in those days if you can believe that. My high school years saw the end of the Cold War and the beginning of U.S. Wars in the Middle East. Actually, the high point of my political formation includes the fall of the Berlin Wall, Tiananmen Square, the first Gulf War and the first World Trade Center attacks — a rather volatile period. No wonder I think we’re all doomed.
The phrase “Berlin Wall” brings to mind the image of one wall — albeit a large and imposing one. But “the wall” was actually three walls, guard towers, and other barriers that kept a city imprisoned for 28 years. A veritable no-man’s-land between communism and freedom. (About 200 people died trying to escape over the wall to West Berlin. None died trying to go the other way.) Twenty-five years later, the wall has been down almost as long as it was up, but the effects of that long separation remain. The Washington Post published a series of maps that show the differences that remain between East and West. I wonder if this will be a permanent cultural separation. Slavery and oppression have a deeper and more lasting impact than I think we want to admit.
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But today we celebrate the triumph of freedom and pray for it to succeed everywhere in the world.