breaking down walls
The Berlin Wall was knocked down, chunk by chunk, twenty years ago today. The event still blows me away.
I lived in West Berlin in the spring of 1989, just months before the wall tumbled down. As a college student, I relished the wild spirit of freedom within that weird western island in the middle of communist East Germany. West Berlin was a throbbing mecca of bright lights, art, music, expression, and yes, commericalism. Visiting East Berlin, which was just yards away but took hours to get into, was like entering a time warp. Bright colors dimmed to muted gray. Soldiers paraded the streets. ”Anti-fascist” propaganda pervaded every publication. People were wonderful–but the society was squelched. It was one of the most extremely controlled communist countries of the Eastern Bloc.
We freely painted our colorful message of hope on the West side of the wall. On the Eastern side, the wall was stark and clean, guarded nonstop by soldiers prepared to shoot on sight anyone who entered the “no man’s land” that surrounded the Brandenburg Gate.
In our political science courses we interviewed Berlin leaders, studied the political structures and debated whether Germany would ever be united again. At that time, most thought it was a nice dream but highly unlikely. People had learned to live with the barrier and would continue to do so.
Within months, the miracle happened. Guards dropped their guns, and people climbed over the wall or walked through that gate to unite with long lost family and friends. Communist regimes fell one by one. Little did we know that the entire world would change so quickly.
But it did.
I keep thinking about those who, against all odds, maintained hope that the wall would be removed. People probably laughed at them or were annoyed by their optimism, but they kept the faith. They kept working toward that goal, they didn’t let the skeptics stop them, and they manifested a miracle.
Today, we still have seemingly insurmountable walls that divide us: physical walls between nations (or neighborhoods), political haranguing, religious conflict, racial prejudice, class and poverty issues, to name a few.
So often the walls seem too high to overcome. The opposing sides are too entrenched. Unification highly unlikely.
Yet some are able to hold onto the faith, keep working to the higher goal, and change the world.
I pray that we, in our own little worlds, can break down walls piece by piece and manifest a miracle or two.
If it can happen in the Berlin I knew, it can happen anywhere.