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Archive for the month “November, 2014”

21) When The Wall Fell: 25th Anniversary

I was 14-years-old watching the incredible events unfold on television. The military guards put down their guns and thousands of people cheering, crying, holding hands; soldiers handing roses down to the people on the west side of the Berlin Wall. The world hadn’t seen anything quite like it before. I cried with them, knowing this was a big moment. A small crack of sunlight crept through the thick disillusionment of my young mind. If an imposing, concrete wall running through the middle of an entire nation could be brought down, then maybe there is hope that the world can change, that people collectively can do the right thing.

The beginning of the Cold War and installation of the Berlin Wall in 1961 marked the birth year of many who identify with Generation X.  As young adults, Gen-X entering the workforce and in high school, witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago on November 9, 1989. This is the story.

“No one has any intention of building a wall.”
— Walter Ulbright, German Democratic Republic Head of the State

Walter Ulbright’s statement on June 15, 1961 was in response to the rumors that had been circulating in Germany over increasing geopolitical instability. A month later the construction began of what would eventually become a massive wall that would separate Germany in two. The Eastern government intended to prevent Eastern Berliners from escaping the Soviet sector of Berlin, cleverly deceiving the German people by reporting that its intentions were to prevent the West from invading the East. Approximately 138 persons and children died attempting to escape beyond the Wall.

“Between 1945 and 1961, well over four million East Germans left their homeland for the West, the greatest voluntary mass migration in recorded European history.” – Peter Wydon

The erection of the “Anti-Fascist Protection Wall” or Rampart marked the beginning of the Cold War. In just a few years, the arm of Communism incased Eastern Germany in a brooding gray barrier that stretched 111.9 kilometers from the north border to the south border. The citizens of Germany were unwillingly torn from their families, thrown out of their homes and stripped of their freedom for 28 long and painful years. Helpless citizens took out their aggressions by painting visual images that echoed their cries for freedom on the face of their intrusive enemy – the Wall.

In 1998, I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Berlin. Several pieces of the Berlin wall were salvaged for public display. I visit the museum at Check-Point Charlie. I could never fully comprehend the significance of the Wall coming down in 1989. Visiting Berlin nine years after the event, I felt the deep impact the Wall had on those who lived on either side of it. There was a deep feeling about the place, a kind of residue. It was present on every street corner, every shop, every alley; I could feel it at the Saturday market in front of Humboldt University and the silence of Babelplatz, the place where Hitler burned the books. Despite it all, industry was booming in the East and one could see thousands of cranes for miles into the horizon.

A piece of the Berlin Wall • September 1998 • photo by Latchkey Lisa

A piece of the Berlin Wall • September 1998 • photo by Latchkey Lisa

Layers upon layers of paint covered the Berlin Wall. Author, Terry Tillman photographed the endless murals before its destruction in a book entitled, The Writings on the Wall: Peace at the Berlin Wall. Tillman was a motivational speaker who had traveled to Berlin on several occasions and was profoundly influenced by the emotional turmoil of Berlin’s divided people.

The artist of the mural (below) is unknown. A cracked gaping hole in the wall forms a skull exposing walls behind walls in a labyrinth of dark gray and black. Two tall buildings in the distance appear as hollowed out eyes. In between stands the T.V. Tower, a powerful symbol of Germany. The German flag ripples in the wind at the top of its point against a dismal sky.

Image Source: The Writings on the Wall: Peace at the Berlin Wall by Terry Tillman - 1990

The Writings on the Wall: Peace at the Berlin Wall by Terry Tillman • 1990

The cracks and jagged edges form abstractions and materialize as other parts of the skull – a nasal cavity, a deformed jawbone with the mouth slightly agape as if shrieking in horror. Piles of bloody human skulls and bones lay crumpled at the base. Written protests can be seen in various places along the shattered walls of the mural. “If you think the system is working ask someone who isn’t,” cries one. Others say, “What you think and do comes back to you,” and “Kilroy was just another brick in the wall.”

Today, 25 years later, marks the anniversary of when the Wall came down, not only as a significant moment in history, but an important one in the development of the Generation X psyche. It was one of a small number of victorious moments that proved that things could change to a generation that harbored no hope for the future. Regardless of how some feel about the politics of Ronald Reagan, we were all inspired on June 12, 1987 to hear him speak the words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

 

SOURCES:

Stuttgart, Baedeker. Allianz Travel Guide: Berlin The Complete Illustrated City Guide. Trans. Jarrold Andsons Ltd. New York, NY: Macmillan Travel, 1988. page 100-101.

Tillman, Terry. The Writings on the Wall: Peace at the Berlin Wall. Santa Monica, California: 22/7 Publishing Company, 1990.

Wyden, Peter. Wall the Inside Story of Divided Berlin. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1989. Page 46.

SUPPLEMENTS:

The Abandoned Buildings of the Eastern Bloc


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20) Letter to Baby Boomers From Gen-X

Dear Baby Boomer,

We are Generation X or whatever you want to call us. We are the youth of the nation… or were. We don’t give a R.I.P. Our destiny is written on the wall, starting with civilization. We are nihilistic by nature because no one wanted us to be here…

Never mind. We seek Nirvana, a place in the world to shelve our Trapper Keepers, our tear-stained journals of rage, our misunderstood expression of anger toward a world with no future lodged in the throat of Sid Vicious, a casualty to the Boomer drug experimentation legacy. Thanks for the bump.

Oh, the 1970s… a putrefied pustule on the zit of history, like a Halloween pumpkin rotting in late December.

The 1970s

The 1970s

We don’t blame you, Boomers. You were just another generation among many, going way back. We can see far down the pike of human existence and we are uniformly disgusted with all human beings, including ourselves. So, don’t take it personally. You just happened to give us a lot of stupid, frivolous, narcissistic doo-doo that doesn’t matter a hill-of-beans to any human dead or alive… but we aren’t taking names or numbers, just sharpening our secondhand pencils for another round of philosophical debate.

Don’t worry. We have your best interest in mind, along with your children even though they were loved more than us. We slam danced in the backseat of our parent’s VW bugs, smacking our heads up against the windows and flying headfirst into the dashboard when our father hit the brakes. Honestly, we have no deep-seated anger that our own parents didn’t flash that cute little “Baby On Board” sign when they drove us around without seatbelts or car seats. We just laughed it off and stuck our stuffed Garfield plush dolls in the trunk with the butt sticking out to show we have a healthy sense of humor.

Okay, let me explain the whole “punk” thing. It’s not about talent, you silly Boomer. It’s about revolution. I know you know what that is. You don’t understand our music because it’s too painful to listen to and reflects the existential dark matter of human misery that we feel every day. Yes, that’s right. Our music feels bad and sounds bad to you because we feel worse than you could ever imagine. To us, your music sounds like the Intro to Loony Tunes.

We were left alone, watching MTV videos in the middle of the night sucking on Nerds candy, waiting for our parental units to come home, too tired to fix us dinner and so we make ourselves another crappy box of Mac & Cheese. We are born into a world of sustained horror, greed, AIDS, useless politics, and recessions that fall like dominoes every time we try to move up in the world from a cardboard box. We have never felt that anyone owes us anything and only want a better world for everyone. So, we deserve a break today.

Be nice. Give us a hug. That’s all we ask.

With love and adoration,

Generation X


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