It had been there my entire life. I hadn’t really noticed it, but it was a powerful symbol—not in the way that it was intended to be. Given the Teutonic nature of many of my musings, it probably occasions little surprise that much of my ancestry is German. I first heard about the Berlin Wall in German class in junior high school. It was a wall to ensure inequality. Then, while studying in Edinburgh, my wife and I came across a friend from Germany. He was standing outside a window, staring in at a television showing the Berlin Wall coming down. Younger than me, he couldn’t believe that this obstacle that seemed so permanent was finally, and suddenly gone. The next summer when we visited him in Germany, he took us to the former border between east and west. Bridges eerily stopped half-way across rivers. Sudden changes in affluence and outlook once you drove across an invisible line that separated us from them. It was all so surreal.
This week heralds the quarter-century mark on the fall of one of the starkest symbols of the Cold War. People hating people. And as the wall in Berlin came down, walls were about to be erected in other states around the world. Not-so-Great walls intended to keep them from getting to us. We stubbornly refuse to learn from history. Those who have have little patience with those who have not. The borders are all only in our minds. Even as the wealthy elites within our system refuse to admit that crime largely comes from unequal distribution of resources, our own nation looks at others and makes the same tacit refusal to acknowledge the obvious. If wealth is so good, why not share it?
Of course, you can buy a piece of the Berlin Wall. Anything from a fist-sized chunk to several tons. The websites say that the wall is of limited quantity. Buy your piece before it’s all gone. I’m afraid their fears are misplaced. The wall pieces may not come from Berlin, but there will always be pieces available, some day, from the West Bank Barrier, or the Peace Walls of Belfast, or the Green Line in Cyprus, or Operation-Hold-the-Line in the Lone Star State. There are many walls that eventually must tumble. Ironically the prophets of the biblical world declare that every hill will be brought down and every valley lifted up to ease the way back home. Of course, once you arrive at home you naturally lock the door to keep the other out. And now, a quarter century after the embarrassment of Berlin faltered, we continue to erect new follies rather than trying to learn to get along.