Mauerfall

10 11 2019

Berlin

November 9, 1989 is for Germans what November 22, 1963 and September 11, 2001 is for Americans.

The “where were you and what were you doing when you learned that…” moment.  The main difference is that JFK and 9/11 were immediate flash events;  The fall of the Berlin Wall, or more accurately, East German authorities no longer enforcing out-travel restrictions as of the evening of November 9, 1989, had a lot that needed to happen before it could happen, and then a lot of things happened as a result of it.

I’ve already gone over the Cliffs Notes of the history.  Except I should have mentioned something then, that I figured out in the car on the way to Berlin night before last as we zoomed by the old Helmstedt-Marienborn Inner German Border checkpoint, and yes, during the summer voyage summer before last, I saw the museum and remnants at that spot.  November 9, 1989 didn’t immediately abolish the Inner German Border — That didn’t happen formally until July 1 of the next year;  The CDU government headed by Lothar de Maizière elected in the DDR in March of the next year in the DDR’s only genuinely democratic elections needed to happen, and then his government abolished the Inner German Border security, and of course his government was just the placeholder for the DDR’s part in negotiating “German reunification,” i.e. the DDR being abolished and its territory joining the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (colloquially “West Germany” until 1990) per Article 23 of the Bundesrepublik’s Basic Law.

I was 12 years old and in the 7th grade on that day, and my teachers and most of my classmates followed along with the daily series of events, because we all knew this was big history happening right in front of our faces.

My girlfriend was only two and a half years old, her sister nine months old, her brother-in-law three months old, that day, so this could not have been a “where were you and what were you doing” moment for them.  My g/f’s father was 31 and her mother 27 on that day, so the next time I see one or both of them, (we’ll be motoring on outta here very shortly, but we won’t get back to Cologne in time for me to join them all for Sunday Rinderbraten), I’ll ask them where they were and what were they doing.

Just in the past year, I’ve been to the centennial of the Armistice of World War I in Compiègne last November 11, the 75th anniversary of D-Day at Omaha Beach back on June 6, and then, yesterday, here.  That’s one of the perks of this job, being here to be party to significant anniversaries of some big events and right where they happened.

And if you would have told 12-year old me on November 9, 1989, that I would be right there on site at the 30th anniversary commemoration of this event, I would have told you you were crazy.

***

There was a big disconnect between the way the German, American and international media portrayed the bittersweet nature of the day, and the attitude of most people on the ground about the bittersweet nature of the day.

The only thing in common between the two sides is the bittersweet mentality.

The disconnect is really easy to explain:

The media and political establishment thought that 30 years ago Saturday leading up to the day after Christmas 1991, the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union, was the process which meant the Fukuyamaite “end of history.”  But in the generation since then, the promise of utopian liberal democracy has been unrealized, and is now being set back by those white populists and nationalists who stubbornly continue to take their own side.  The German media in particular also used the day as another opportunity to squeal about the lingering east-west divide.

Germans on the ground in Berlin on Saturday were bittersweet, because the grassroots mentality starting 30 years ago Saturday and peaking on the day of formal reunification the next year was that, now, finally, the Russians and Americans would take their troops and go home, and Germany could finally become genuinely independent and a true global power and maybe even superpower, and at the very least, quit being a vassal-client of either.  In that time, obviously the Russians left in very short order, mainly because the USSR proper was itself on its last leg.  But American disengagement from Germany has been a much more slow process, and still to this day not consummated.  While the American military footprint in Germany has been declining, what has not abated is American soft power.  Yes, I know I write that rather unironically.

To wit, and as a very small example:  The new Reagan statue debuted on Friday very near the exact spot where Reagan stood on the high podium to deliver the “Tear Down This Wall” address.  While JFK is openly honored about two miles southwest of that point, at the old West Berlin City Hall, the site of “Ich Bin Ein Berliner,” (and miss me with the jelly donut nonsense, that’s fake news), the reason why the Reagan statue there and now rubs Germans a little bit of the wrong way is because Americans are continuing to use Germany for American political ends, when by now, they thought we would have been long gone.

So that basically sums up the disconnect.  Politicians and the media are upset that populism and nationalism still exist, while grassroots Germans are upset that Germany is still an American vassal-client.

 


Actions

Information

2 responses

11 11 2019
11 11 2019
countenance

Like I wrote October before last, there were supposed chunks on sale at Famous-Barr for $10 during the Christmas shopping season in 1989. I, even at the age of 12, figured that, on the day I saw it, it was only 37 days after November 9, so I figured the combination of the very short time frame, and the long distance, and all the logistics issues, meant that those pieces were fake.

It's your dime, spill it. And also...NO TROLLS ALLOWED~!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.




%d bloggers like this: