Twenty Years Since the Fall of the Wall – Are we Building More Walls or Bridges?29 Nov 2009
It is twenty years ago that the Berlin Wall came crashing down, amid wild celebration and a collective sigh of relief that the Cold War was at last coming to an end – not with a bang, but with music and dancing and noisy jubilation. It was one of the most beautiful turning points in history, a rare moment of nonviolent transformation, when freedom won the day. For decades, the people of eastern Europe had suffered under a system that stifled economic growth and personal initiative, that watched their every move and punished any manifestation of free thought, and – worst of all – kept all but a privileged few imprisoned behind what Churchill called an “Iron Curtain.”
The fall of the wall swept that away, and the countries of Eastern Europe have been steadily rebuilding, reintegrating themselves into the world economy and the community of free nations. If one memory stays with us, twenty years after we saw the first flickering TV pictures of people dancing atop the wall – in the very place where people once were shot, trying to escape – it should be the joy in the faces of the revelers, celebrating their new-found ability to move freely, to go where their dreams and abilities took them.
The East Germans had walled themselves in after World War II, and some would like us to wall ourselves off from immigration – but we should think twice before we do this. We live in a world that is increasingly interconnected and interdependent, and our U.S. economy depends on getting the best and brightest talent from everywhere in the world. This is worth remembering when the immigration reform debate resumes – bridges will serve us better than walls, if we wish to maintain and hopefully grow our standard of living.