The Top 173 Things in History: #16. The Fall of the Berlin Wall

A lot of the phrases we use to describe the ends of various injustices are metaphorical. We have to break glass ceilings, tear down barriers, and free ourselves from shackles.

While the Berlin Wall was, in some ways, metaphorical, it was also very real. Unlike the abstract glass ceilings, the wall was very much concrete—in fact, a large collection of it running directly through a major European city. The Berlin Wall was about as subtle as giving a literary character the initials J.C., or, in C.S. Lewis’ case, having a character (without those specific initials) forfeit his life to save those of some children, only to rise from the dead to defeat evil.*

*I highly suggest reading Lewis’ interpretation of his own character in that link.

This is all to say: The Berlin Wall was not subtle. It was totalitarianism and oppression reified in mortar for all to see. It was, as Ronald Reagan said in his famous 1987 speech at the Brandenburg Gate, a “gash” and a “scar” not just on Berlin, but on Germany and the entirety of Europe.

Of course, Reagan’s speech was more or less incidental to the gradual disintegration of the Eastern bloc, as uprisings in Poland and Czechoslovakia were more influential than the President’s mandate to Mr. Gorbachev. But when its gradual destruction was mistakenly commenced 20 years ago—the official who announced that East Germans could move across the border erroneously said it was in effect immediately instead of the next day—the Berlin Wall ceased to separate not only East and West Berlin, but Eastern and Western Europe and the Eastern and Western worlds, as well.

It is arguable that, in the two decades since November 9, 1989, there has not been a better day in world history, as viewed from a Western perspective.

It is not arguable that, in the two decades since November 9, 1989, there has been a better day in world history, as viewed from a David Hasselhoff perspective. Let’s just say he reached his pinnacle that day; those people had been looking for freedom for a LONG time.

And yes, that is a piano-key scarf.

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