Monday, November 9, 2009

20 Years

Like any good Generation X’er growing up in the 80’s, I was a child of the Cold War and the culture associated with it. Who could forget that terrifying movie The Day After with the sobering nuclear attack scene? I can still recite Sting’s I Hope the Russians Love Their Children Too.

How can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer’s deadly toy?

Good Lord.

Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Still brings tears to my eyes.

I remember sitting in front of my grandparents Curtis Mathis crying as I watched the wall come down. I was 18; going to college in Boulder. I sat in my tie-dyed, patchouli scented t-shirt, young and idealistic and cried.

“This is the greatest event of my life.” I said (I was young!)

My grandfather shook his head. “There is nothing more dangerous than a unified Germany,” he said. “It will be world war three; mark my words.”

I couldn’t believe his words. We just prevented world war three! It’s over! It’s done! No bombs were dropped, no blood was shed.

Twenty years later I can understand his perspective. I don’t agree with it but I understand it. He grew up in the wake of WWI and lived through WWII. His idea of a dangerous world was (and still is) much different than mine.

Twenty years later and a day before Veteran’s Day….what does it mean; a world without this wall? It has been a tough week here in the States; shootings in Fort Hood and Orlando. Many people would argue that they don’t feel any safer in a post Cold War world. Many Eastern Europeans would argue that they preferred life under communist rule.

But you know what the big difference is?

People can talk about it.

People can meet about it.

People can even rally against it.

Last month thousands of Romanian workers rallied against pay cuts and no one was arrested. No one was taken away. It was a different country 21 years ago.

As our own country changes, we meet, we argue, we discuss and if we yell loud enough, we are heard. Town hall meetings are democracy at work, dialogue, discussion, disagreement.

We need to remember this wall….celebrate the meaning behind it; the freedom of a choice, to meet and to have a voice. More importantly, to remember a time when our friends and family did not have these freedoms. Personally, I have pulled out my tie-dyed, patchouli scented shirt...that's right...feeling a little idealistic.

Happy Berlin Wall anniversary and Happy Veteran’s Day.

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