Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Another Brick in the Wall

                                                                 DIE MAUER
Government constructed barriers are silly. This sentiment is clearly shared by Berlin's distinctly youthful population. While on a cruise around the city teenagers and twentyish year old plebeians were seen littering the river banks regardless of high grass, fences, or even perilous drops. They all had beer or wine and
I'm unsure of what this means but I think I like it. 
Reminders of the past decorate a diverse Berlin.
smiles on their faces. Waves and happy exclamations came freely and often. I couldn't help but think that back in Johnson City, Tennessee cops would be cracking down on this sort of behavior and business at juvenile hall would be at a record high. They wouldn't be smiling then would they?! Fortunately, the police in Berlin have priorities that are more in line with legitimate security than generating buisness and I thoroughly enjoyed the kids' simple, if inebriated, celebrations. The city's rough edges weren't at all threatening. In fact, I found them refreshing. There weren't any serious attempts to circumvent reality and the glittering often shared scenery with the demure. Though purely conjecture, I'd like to think that this is due, in part, to a mutual understanding between classes. Ultimately, their goals aren't all that different. Although freedom hasn't brought a Mercedes to every driveway, destruction of the wall made everyone's lives more fruitful.

                Interesting  Timing

 Just before our arrival in Berlin, The Guardian, a UK newspaper, after receiving classified material from a intelligence whistle-blower (Snowden), revealed to the world that the U.S. government has been illegally collecting the private information of its citizens (in addition to others, inclucding the German government). Oh, the irony! The state funded Stasi museum was housed next door to our hotel. The collection of once classified GDR documents and archaic spy tools it housed made me laugh. What the Stasi wouldn't have given to have the U.S. government's current spy
Cheeky Berlin artists project their views onto the American Embassy
technology? They'd have been in authoritarian heaven. It seems that our nation is suffering from acute amnesia. I remember well the celebrations of freedom at 10 years old. Watching walls crumble as oppressive governments passed into history. These moments shaped my life and world view. Free thought, free speech, free assembly, free trade, and most importantly, free movement. The U.S. was helping to lead the way to a new level of international civil independence. Alas, my understanding has proven dated, if not outright misguided, and as I write this a wall is under construction along the southern border of the U.S. and the Government there continues tightening its grip on citizens' lives.

                                            Scattered Reminders of Oppressed Lives

There is much to see in Berlin, however, this is its best time machine.
 In addition to portions of the wall left along the river, and the admission-free Stasi Museum, there was also a terrific, semi permanent, exhibition close to the hotel which helps document past oppession. From the exterior, Die Mauer appears as a 40 foot tall cylinder in the heart of town. However, the interior uses a collection of old photographs and artistic renderings to recreate a full scale point perspective panorama of what it would have looked like at the location 25 years ago.

It has been said that "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it".  Fortunately, if somewhat perversely, wounds from the past are still fresh in Berlin and distrust of the powers that be are pervasive. It is no small coincidence that I felt more freedom here than anywhere in the United States.  My, how the tables have turned. We've grown so complacent, we've lost touch with our freedom. I reiterate the words of JFK spoken in support of those trapped on the wrong side of The Wall, almost exactly fifty years ago, "All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, 'Ich bin ein Berliner".
                                                            Ich bin ein Berliner !
Who's Watching You?

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