Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tearing down walls





The other day I got a catch in my throat, during an interview, when they asked me questions about the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was just a pre-teen at that historic moment that changed not just something as abstract as the political map but also - completely and at lightning speed - my life and that of all of the people I had around me in my childhood. In less than a year, we went from pompous orchestrated Labour Day parades, with scout-like uniforms, to silent demonstrations that brought us to the edge of legality, and that in just a few short weeks morphed into a giant wave that not even a 13-foot high solid, stone, barbed-wire topped wall could withstand. In those months, the German people learned that a wall is something built from individual stones and just as it was built, it can also be demolished. It's a matter of will.


But let's go back to the interview that left me so choked up. For days, I have been going round and round in my head about how an event so long ago could still affect me so deeply. Today we live like all Germans, we worry about the same things and there are many people from my childhood who don't want to hear any talk at all about the old East Germany, as if it were a bad dream that must be forgotten once you’ve woken up. Still, I believe that the memory of the fall of the wall produces a feeling of profound gratitude for life in many people. In my case, because it gave me the opportunity to fulfill the dream that I had since I was a child: to be free. Now, what does that mean? I could describe many things about daily life that have improved since our November 9th, but the truth is that it can be summed up in a single sentence: Being free was being able to make my own decisions.

Now, with that reflection made, I am much more calm when I hear Mr. Rajoy, or his deputy primer minister, or any other politician who has hijacked the word "democracy" for objectives that are hardly democratic. I am calm because I realize I'm living a "dejà vu". If my parents, my neighbours, school teachers and civil organizations hadn't joined together in acts of peaceful civil disobedience, today we would not be celebrating October 3, Germany's Reunification Day.


I am calm because I realize how empty is all the meaningless, unstatesmanlike discourse that comes from those who claim to represent the Spain. This discourse comes from people who are facing the fall of the wall that they themselves constructed, that they have not known how to transform into a bridge, and whose destruction they hope to allay by stoking up fear. But the thing is that we no longer accept truth unless there is empirical evidence. On November 9, 1989, when I got home, my brother greeted me saying, "The wall has fallen!". My spontaneous reaction was "That's impossible." But it wasn't, was it?

Krystyna Schreiber


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