Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Die Mauer

The wall. As a student of German, I can attest to the fact that the idea of divisiveness and Walls is a common theme in post WWII literature. The country was literally divided in half, with a wall which stretched for miles and miles. Across Europe it was called the Iron Curtain. In Germany it was physically a wall or a fence.

In high school, I was in Germany after the Wall came down 11.11.89. My school group was in Berlin in the summer 1990. We walked through the "no man's land." We sat on top of the Wall. We drew pictures and wrote our names on the Wall. Then we took a hammer we had bought in a general store and a small chisel and proceeded to cut out chunks of the wall. I brought home two large chunks and some smaller pieces. I gave them to some friends and I have two large chunks tucked away with my momentos. It is cheap concrete and it is a piece of history.

At 16 or maybe I was 17, I was part of history in a tangible way. I was standing in the Alexander Platz a place less than 6 months ago, I would never have been able to go to. I had seen it in grainy educational film strips. I was standing under the tower the Communist had used to spy on the West. Me. A girl from Central Ohio.

I was seeing things most Americans had only read about, seeing what many Europeans had only read about. I was standing in a free country, a soon to be reunified country. I was standing in a place Ronald Regan had only dreamed of standing in, when he demanded that the Russian President "tear down this wall."

I was breathing history. We are all breathing history, but in this case, it felt alive to me in a way it had never felt before. I felt my very standing in the Alexanderplatz, my walk through No man's land, was history in the making.

We also lucked out and were able to see the Roger Walters show (Pink Floyd) the Wall at the Wall. I have a T-shirt. That rock opera means so much more, when it is performed at the Wall. The music takes on a mystical quality for me. Today looking over lyrics for my Facebook post, I felt that familiar chill. So many young people coming to Berlin to hear music and celebrate freedom.

I have never really taken that freedom for granted. I have always known that with freedom comes amazing responsibility. Berlin is a city with many scars. A city once divided, the place where many resistance fighters were killed, hung with piano wire, the home of a once thriving cafe culture, with many gay performers of the 20s rounded up by Nazis and sent away. Berlin has remains of bombed churches to help us remember, the horrible things we do to one another.

I will admit, I think more of the wall should have remained in Berlin. As an example of what can happen, when people put power over common sense, fear over love and to remind us that - sometimes in great darkness springs forth a light. It is not a political statement, but I truly believe that freedom will always find a way... Freedom is a fundamental human desire or perhaps right or a liberty. I think history will show that a fence can be built and eventually, people will find a way over or around it.

I remember that day, sitting on the wall, looking at the city, once divided. I hoped then as I hope today, that we learned a lesson and that nothing like that happens again in my lifetime.

Because its not just another brick in the wall...

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