Monday, November 16, 2009

Jubiläum des Mauerfalls pt.2

[ Fall of the Berlin Wall Anniversary pt.2 ]

Merkel noted in her address to the people that the destruction of the Wall to cross the border "was worth fighting for," but she also concentrated on the reality that "German unity is not yet complete" realizing the fact that Germany still has many challenges to face, culturally and economically, even today 20 years after the unification of the nation. There are still opinions that fly around from different Germans, including "The east side gets all the money - the roads are better there than in the West!" or "The arrogant Westerners came in and bought everything - the east was like an adopted child, sort of just dragged along."

Now I must admit that most of my experiences in Germany so far have been exclusively in the former Western Germany, however, going to Dresden, one of the main cities in the former Eastern region was a great opportunity to witness the stark differences that still exist. As I have noted from my weekend visit, there were corners of Dresden that were staggeringly new, and reminders that there was great movements for reconstruction - but there were also reminders that this was all recent, only after the reunification, and just walking through the streets, there seemed to be a more somber mood on the older local’s faces - all just sheer observation of course. This makes me truly want to experience more of the former East so that I can better understand these differences that still exist as I try to even remotely imagine a life where such a modern nation in modern day went for so many decades with the struggles and repression of a great divide.

Throughout the historical anniversary events, there were many blogs, editorials, and news broadcasts that used the opportunity to find connections to the events in Berlin in '89. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave an address reminding the world that we still have to keep the people in mind that even in the 21st century live in repressive regimes:

"Our history did not end the night the Wall came down, it began anew. And this matters not only to tens of millions of Europeans, and to the United States, but to people everywhere."

"To expand freedom to more people, we cannot accept that freedom does not belong to all people. We cannot allow oppression, defined and justified by religion or tribe to replace that of ideology.

"We have a responsibility to address conditions everywhere that undermine the potential of boys and girls and men and women that sap human dignity and threaten global progress."

President Obama also spoke in recognition to the landmark event, as well as many other world leaders.

It was very interesting to follow blogs and editorials, especially online, where anyone in our modern age can leave comments in a few clicks - and I found it interesting to see raging arguments comparing the Berlin wall to the strict wall-like divide over the Mexican border to many immigrants trying to come to the United States. Seemingly unrelated, I just found it fascinating to see the expanse of what the Berlin wall meant for people and the entire new agenda of issues and topics that grew from the history and anniversary of the event. In the entertaining e-arguments I was skimming online, one commenter made an interesting analogy with the symbolic "walls":

If you lock you doors to keep people from breaking into your house, you do the same thing the US is doing. If you lock people in your basement and refuse to let them out, you are doing what the East Germans did. Now do you get it?

The entire purpose of mentioning these side connections is just to prove what the anniversary was able to instill in citizens in the world - discussions over oppressive regimes, problems that we could be repeating in our modern times, the changes over the last decades and differences in generations and what we can learn from all of this. This is what made Monday- and I am sure many more days to come relating to this important year in German history- so exciting.

Bringing this all together, and what it means for me, on Monday I also received a newsletter from New York from my program directors overseas that essentially updated us on the next few months - and to not get too homesick during Thanksgiving and Christmas - but it also addressed the opportunities we have to learn from the anniversary in Berlin.

I am part of the 26th Parlamentarisches Patenschafts Programm [CBYX ] group meaning that 25 years of other young American ambassadors were able to experience this unique year exchange in Germany before me.

Within the newsletter were several comments and stories from previous PPPler that lived in Germany before or during the reunification, and the experiences they had witnessing that life - this really opened my eyes to the fact that I am living in a completely different Germany than my scholarship counterparts from 10 years ago, who were living in just as different of a Germany as the group from two decades ago.

“What I remember most about the
Berlin visit was that West Berlin was a gray
and somber city, except for the wall, which
was a multicolored wall of graffiti. My girl
friends and I added to that cacophony of
color by signing our names on the wall in the
ohso'80s markers that outlined the ink insilver.the
proachable the wall was on the Eastern side.”

“I was in the last group which was in a divided
Germany. We had a midterm meeting in West Berlin and
took a tour of East Berlin. Our guide was a really nice guy
and we asked him whether he thought unification would
ever come. He said he couldn't foresee it in our lifetimes.
Nine months later the wall fell down. This was all before the
protests in the East and the mass fleeing of East Germans
through Hungary into Austria. What I learned: you cannot
predict the future.”

The stories that I heard talking to people in Germany during this landmark anniversary, or following the celebrations in the news really provided me with a humbled outlook on the great learning experiences I am encountering this year. Sharing my observations and comparing them with other stories from around Germany, or hearing other opinions and historical outlooks in the news have all provided me with an incredible environment to consistently learn so many new perspectives on history and current events alike.

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