Monday, November 2, 2009

November 1, 2009

       The Berlin Wall, news reports remind us, came down twenty years ago this week.  That means many of us are too young to have seen it.  It was awful, but it did teach a lesson we all need to learn.      It was the ugliest structure I've ever seen--squat, unwelcoming.  It stank of oppression.  The East German guards shot and killed their fellow citizens who tried to climb or otherwise escape it.  Looking at it, I felt almost nauseous;  it was hard to imagine human beings doing this to one another.  (I was, I should add, a reporter based in London at the time.  Americans could cross the Wall and enter East Germany. Germans, of course, could not.)      But it did come down, of course, and the freedom-seeking hordes poured through.  The lesson, I think, is that freedom-- the good guys-- do sometimes win.  It isn't easy, and it can be very slow.  Freedom/racial desegregation came to the American South only in the 1960s, a century after our Civil War.   No one would suggest that we've solved racism here.      News reports say inequalities continue in Germany too.  Incomes are lower in the East, and so on.  Still, we do inch forward and there are milestones.  The death of the Wall is one of them.
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