{ Silver Linings } ~ The Fall of the Berlin Wall

The 25th Anniversary for one of those seismic events in history: the fall of the Berlin Wall.  For American philosopher and economist Francis Fukuyama, this event marked the "End of history." Giddy times those.

A cartoon I did when these incredible events were taking place.  This was but one in a series of events that gave many hope at the time; Nelson Mandela's release in South Africa and the relatively peaceful transition in that troubled country was another incredible moment a few months removed from the Wall falling.  Looking back, I realize just how fortunate I was to be witness to these events and be able to comment on them and have those comments published in magazines and newspapers.

But back to the Wall.  Could it be that one of the greatest events in history was also one of its greatest mix-ups? Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika reforms had satellite Communist regimes reeling: was this a permanent change from the Stalinist-era of mass murder and repression? Or was it yet another 'false dawn' like the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and the Czechoslovakian Uprising in 1968 both of which ended in brutal fashion?  A perplexed Politburo member in East Berlin took to the microphones and muttered that "As far as I know  [the East German borders] would be opened, now - immediately".  Pandemonium ensued and there was no turning back.  What seemed impossible suddenly was reality- the Wall was torn down without a bullet shot in anger.

It was not just East and West Germans who were caught unawares.  Western politicians were scrambling to keep up with the change.  Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady from England, who had huffed and puffed for decades demanding the Russians tear down the wall now had to confront the results of her past rhetoric: German reunification.  Apparently, the Lady was for turning after all. She quickly pleaded with Gorbachev to reconstruct the division between the Germany's.  It was hardly her's or Britain's finest hour.  She wasn't the only hypocrite among European leaders who had made a career of talking tough about Liberty and the Wall only to balk when the event finally did occur. Germans themselves were apprehensive.  How to absorb the backward East German economy within the economic powerhouse that was West Germany?  Many who feared Reunification based on hoary old ghosts and anti-German sentiment were content with the knowledge that it would prove a monumental task for Germany to reintegrate if not impossible. Not for the first time did they severely underestimate the Germans.

And so, one hundred years removed from the 'War that would end all Wars', Europe finds itself following the blueprint set out by Kaiser Wilhelm in the event of a German victory in WW1: a 'United States of Europe' under German influence.  Only this time, the 'Old Guard', France and Britain, are not trying to stem the inevitable tides of history but accepting them. Indeed, France and Germany now enjoy much warmer relations if not outright friendship.  If these 'two scorpions in the bottle' could set aside their differences, perhaps others can too?   A sliver lining indeed.  Alles Gute zum Jubilaeum!


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