(Note: I intended to post this first thing in the morning, but got sidetracked. Well, it’s up before midnight, right?)
8000 lights are currently marking the historic path of the Berlin wall, it's such a powerful reminder. pic.twitter.com/mLu2YBJ3eE
— Myko Clelland (@DapperHistorian) November 8, 2014
It was 25 years ago today that the Berlin Wall, the symbol of the Communist conquest of Eastern Europe, came tumbling down. With it, eventually, went one of most evil regimes ever to mar the face of the Earth. With it went two-thirds of the world’s civil wars and masses of political prisoners. With it went the blood-thirsty dictators, thought controllers, re-educators and violent psychopaths who had defined Communist ideology since its inception. Since then, billions of people have escaped poverty, billions more have been freed of war and bloodshed. The last 25 years have been the most prosperous and most peaceful in human history.
That’s not a coincidence.
I remember my best friend’s sister came back with a piece of the wall in her pocket. I held it and thought that it looked pretty crumbly for concrete*. I remember Leonard Bernstein leading an orchestra in a performance of Beethoven’s ninth with “Freiheit” substituted for “freude”. And I remember that I’d just read some of Robert Heinlein’s writings about the Cold War and lamented that he didn’t live long enough to see the Wall crash into the garbage pile of history.
Make no mistake: the Fall of Communism didn’t “just happen”. The historians who insisted that the collapse of communism was inevitable were the same ones insisting, eight years earlier, that Communism would never fall. Various leaders played their role (Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, Thatcher, John Paul II, etc.). Communism fell because they stood up to it. Communism fell because they engaged in an economic, political and military struggle it could never win. Communism fell because they found a way to embrace and encourage the forces bringing down Communism from within without provoking the Communist leadership. Gorbachev and his fellows thought they could have Communism without the tanks and gulags. They quickly found out that they were wrong.
The Fall of the Berlin Wall is one of the great moments in human history and in American history. 25 years on, we shouldn’t forget that.
(*I later found out that almost all Communist concrete was poorly made. Yes, my friends: the Communists couldn’t get concrete right. You can buy bags of quality stuff from Lowe’s for a few bucks each that’s better than anything Communism ever made.)